Opinion » Note

Note August 6, 2008

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Pop quiz: How many U.S. soldiers have died in the war in Iraq? Answer: 4,133 as of BW press time. Every week, we publish the updated number in News Shorts. Here's a number we don't print: 562. That's the number of U.S. soldiers who've died in Operation Enduring Freedom, aka, the increasingly violent military campaign called the war in Afghanistan, which began on Oct. 7, 2001.

The latest Gallup polls show that 63 percent of Americans believe the United States made a mistake sending troops to Iraq. Only 23 percent said "yes" when the invasion began in March 2003.

Last weekend I watched a flick called Home of the Brave. Despite a cast with some pretty big names—Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci and 50 Cent—the film barely made it into theaters, and with its personal-aftermath-of-war plot, it's not hard to see why. We go to the movies for an escape from reality: The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy. Ask us to go see a serious film about a war in which we're currently embroiled and forget it. Roadside bombs, ambushes, death, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcoholism? No thanks.

After I recovered from the movie's wallop, I thought about the last time I'd had a conversation about the war. The economy, gas prices, the housing market, local layoffs, restaurant closings, "staycations," global warming, Obama, McCain ... I've covered it all recently. But not the war, and I'm disappointed in myself for it. Between my father and his father are a total of 62 years of military service. My grandfather fought in World War II and Korea, and did six tours in Vietnam. When my father sent his troops to Iraq in 1991, my mom and I put together care packages for all of them. Ironically, I've not led a life sheltered from the military until recently—now that it's my generation's turn at war. Here's a number: 4,695. We're overwhelmingly against the war, but when will we decide that's enough dead soldiers?