Do You Know Who Died?
by James Glaser
On November 14th, seven Americans were killed in Iraq. Did you know that? Were the seven listed in your newspaper with their home towns? Antiwar.com has them listed on the internet as:
Sgt. 1st Class Tung M. Nguyen, 38, of Tracy, Calif., died Nov. 14 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez, 21, of La Puente, Calif., died Nov. 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Brown, 21, of Sacramento, Calif., died Nov. 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Lance Cpl. Michael D. Scholl, 21, of Lincoln, Neb., died Nov. 14 from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Spc. Eric G. Palacios Rivera, 21, of Atlantic City, N.J., died Nov. 14 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.
Two died Nov. 14 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. Killed were:
Col. Thomas H. Felts Sr., 45, of Sandston, Va. He was assigned to the Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Spc. Justin R. Garcia, 26, of Elmhurst, N.Y. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Three years ago that many Americans killed in one day would have made headline news in every newspaper in the country. Today it might not even make the front page. Many times the number of Iraqi deaths are the headline, and the number of Americans killed is listed like an afterthought, as in, "Another Bloody Sunday:136 Iraqis, 2 GIs Killed."
Three years ago those two dead GIs would have been a story all to themselves. After three and a half years, the daily deaths and wounding of American troops in Iraq (2,874 killed and 21,774 wounded) don't even make the "headline news" segment on NPR any more.
I can still vividly remember the first dead body I saw in Vietnam. It was my second day over there, and I was riding shotgun on a truck making a dump run just north of Phu Bai. Phu Bai was five miles south of Hue, and the dump was someplace along some railroad tracks next to the main highway. The dump was huge, and there must have been 20 American trucks dumping at any given time. I remember we had to wait in line, and I was amazed by the hundreds, maybe thousands of Vietnamese combing the dump looking for anything of value or edible. When our turn came the driver rammed the truck back into the pile with no regard for the safety of the people back there. He had been in Nam for a lot longer than my two days and was pretty jaded.
The two Marines in the back of the truck started to shovel and push all of our garbage out, while I was stood behind them keeping an eye out for any trouble, which now that I think about it was really dumb. I should have had the shovel, as all the guys with me knew a lot better what to look for, after all I was a FNG and had no idea of what was going on. In the Marines it really doesn't matter what you know or how much practical experience you have, what matters is how many stripes you have on your collar. I had three, being a sergeant, and the guys in the back of the truck were PFCs. That is why I was riding in the front of the truck.
While I was up top keeping an eye out for what was happening around us, I was shocked by this sea of humanity scavenging through our garbage looking for whatever they could find. There were old people, young people, and little children all looking very thin and very dirty, but excited and happy with what we were throwing away. I looked down next to the truck and there sticking out of the pile was a body or part of one, obviously dead and dead for a long while. I tapped the driver to take a look see, and all he said was, "Yeah?" Like, so what. That being my first dead body in the Nam, I can still see it today. Head shoulders, and part of the torso, with one arm under the head like the person was sleeping on their stomach and this wave of garbage was coming over the top of them.
It wasn't like a Hollywood movie where the guy sees a dead body and leans over and throws up. I can't even remember feeling queasy, but that imagine is still vivid in my mind. That was the first dead body I saw, but not the last, and as the months went on by, those bodies and the images of them seemed to have less of an impact on me. That is what happens when death and carnage is around you all the time. You start to get numb to it, and I think that is what is happening to the American people today. Unless the Soldier or Marine is a loved one, an old school mate, or someone from your home town, the American deaths in Iraq have lost their impact.
During the first months of George Bush's war, people would stop and think what a shame that this one or another had to die. People would stop and listen to the report of a death on radio, and many gave a visible sigh when they thought about the mother or father, wife/husband or child of the American who died. After three and a half years of reading about or listening to reports of our troops being killed, that sense of shock or loss has faded.
Today those reports are on the inside of the paper, and sometimes they only make the local news. "Out of sight out of mind," makes waging a war far easier for those sending the troops to the front and that works two ways. Hiding the flag draped coffins in the no-photo plane loads that come home in the middle of the night works to keep the deaths of our troops on the fringe of the day's news.
Washington and the media seem to work in conjunction with each other in making our losses in Iraq less important. Congress and the President enforce laws forbidding any one from taking photos of our troops coming home in a steel box. There was a time about two years ago, when photos of veterans who had lost a limb or limbs made for a good story, but those stories ran their course and now few wounded veterans get any copy.
The rest of the world sees dead Americans along with dead Iraqis on their news programs every night, and those people are constantly reminded of the horror going on in Iraq. We Americans, by design are kept in the dark about the situation in this war. In America the number of people watching the evening news is down, and so is the readership of American newspapers. Americans work longer hours and have less time off the job than any other industrialized nation. If a family doesn't have a member serving in one of Bush's wars, chances are they have little time to pay attention to what is going on in the war, and that is just how Washington wants it.
If you take the time to look at the numbers, on average, every day, 18 Americans are being killed and wounded in Iraq. That should be a shocking number, but it isn't, because we never hear the daily numbers. Out of sight, out of mind. . . it works every time.
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