1 April 2008

 The Butter-Cutter On The 4,000-Casualties Figure 

The publication last week that the U.S. had lost 4,000 of its sons and daughters in Iraq prompted me to visit the virtual mess hall and solicit the reaction of the Butter-Cutter to this event.

“How are you today?” I asked The Butter-Cutter as he surveyed the pats of butter floating around in a bowl of ice water at the end of the chow line.

Without looking up, he said, “OK.”

“I have a question for you,” I added, trying to get him to look up.

“A question? So what's new?” Every time you come here, you have a question,” he answered barely lifting his eyebrows.

“Well, I was wondering what you thought of the milestone published by the media last week that 4,000 servicemen and women have died in Iraq?”

“I heard about that. It received pretty wide-spread coverage, didn't it?” he retorted.

Yes. I believe most, if not all, the major media-TV networks, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc.-covered the event.”

He then looked at me and asked, “Didn't The New York Times carry pictures of the casualties?”

“Yes, in addition to reporting the 5-year cumulative figure, the paper had some pictures and letters from six who had died there,” I recalled.

The Butter-Cutter further asked, “Hasn't the media reported when we hit or added a thousand casualties to the toll: 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and now 4,000?”

“Uh, I think that's right,” I tried to remember. “Also, at one of those points--1,000, 2,000, or 3,000-either the Washington Post or The New York Times published the photographs of all those killed in Iraq up to that time.”

The Butter-Cutter then stared at me and asked, “Why do they do that?”

“Publish the pictures?” I asked. 

Almost barking, The Butter-Cutter said, “Not just the pictures . . . the pictures, the numbers, the letters . . . all of it . . . and especially making a big deal of the 1,000-casualtes milestones?”

“Well, the media is informing the American public of the cost of this war. The public has a right to know this information and the media has an obligation to inform them,” I explained.

“Did you say that the American people have a 'right to know' the cost of this war and that's why the media publicizes these 1,000-casualties milestones?” he repeated.

“Yes. And the media feels it has an obligation to inform . . ..”


“I don't understand what you mean,” I answered haltingly.

“The Bad Guy casualty figures! Don't the American people also have a 'right to know' how many Bad Guys have died in this war?”

“Oh, you mean Body Count. We did that during the Vietnam War and the media kept attacking the figures as inaccurate. I guess that's why they don't publish those figures for Iraq,” I suggested.

“You're wrong. They do publish them on an irregular battle-by-battle basis. My question is: Why don't they give the CUMULATIVE figures for Bad Guy casualties as they give American CUMULATIVE casualties? Don't the American people have an equal 'right to know' those figures? By the publication of those figures, the American people could compare the figures to see if we're making any progress in this war.”

“No! No!” I intoned. “Progress in this 'insurgency,' internecine,' 'irregular,' Jihad or . . . whatever war can't be measured by 'Body Count.' This war will be . . ..”

Again The Butter-Cutter cut me off, “Do you have a degree in stupidity? Why do you think the media publishes American casualty figures; first, when they occur and then cumulative figure thresholds? It is to show that our cost is too high and we should pull out. By withholding opposition casualty figures the American people are subtly seduced into thinking that our forces are the preponderant losers in this imbroglio.”

“I can only say that as an objective measure . . .,” I tried to answer before being cut off again.

“Don't stay stuck on stupid!” The Butter-Cutter said glaring at me with fire in his eyes. “It has nothing to do with objectivity and everything to do feelings . . . emotions . . . a subjective sense that we are winning or losing. Remember, the Hanoi regime announced on the 20th anniversary of the end of that war that they had lost 1,100,000 killed and some 600,000 wounded during the Vietnam War. (http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.htmlFigures that are not far off the body count provided by the U.S. military during that war and condemned as inaccurate by our media. It was that media effort, hawking the theme that the figures were inaccurate, which 'greased the skids' for our exit from that war. Now, the media has decided what 'right to know' the American people have by publishing cumulative U.S. casualties and not publishing cumulative insurgent casualties as it again cultivates a sense of desperation-losing-in America. How much longer will we let ourselves be manipulated by this domestic instrument of disinformation?”

I offered no response to The Butter-Cutter. I just walked away wondering how he could arrive at such a perverted understanding of the media. The media is made up of Americans who are the products of our mutual communities, schools and churches where they were nurtured by the same principles of honesty, loyalty, and patriotism as all Americans. He suggests that members of the media have rejected, or at least, broke those common American bonds and turned their constitutional right to inform into a right to coerce. Well, I . . . he can't be right, can he?

Semper Right To Know . . . THE WHOLE STORY,

Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC (Ret.)