Why the numbers?

I print the death tolls in hopes that young people will debate whether this war is worth it.

by Karl Noyes

It’s a depressing little war isn’t it? The faces that have died aren’t to be seen, hidden behind draped flags, burned and mangled beyond recognition or too dark-skinned to be considered human. Every morning Americans have to wake up either lying to themselves or realizing they are part of an imperialist conquest void of humanitarian consideration.

That’s this little war, and it’ll make you want to sleep in until it’s over. Warm blankets are better than cold armor.

We’ve all been trained to think in a rut. Pictures and videos are too visceral if they tell the truth. Words are mostly impotent. But we have all been trained to some extent to think in numbers. Our economy doesn’t operate on poetry, after all, but uncomplicated numerals.

That is one reason I have decided to print death tolls in Iraq that you see on the opposite page. As long as I’m editor and the war continues, I will have the tolls printed.

The numbers, of course, will be disputed. Only a sadist would be satisfied with the exact, up-to-the-minute accuracy of the death tolls. The point is that thousands are needlessly dying. To quibble about exact accuracy shows a deficiency of consideration. The numbers will be updated as the counts change.

The numbers for the American soldiers who have died are taken from www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties. Here, the American soldiers who have died become more than just numbers. You will be able to see some of their faces and learn a little about their lives. The numbers we print do not include everyone who has died as part of the coalition forces, nor the journalists or the workers who died working on behalf of businesses. This is not done out of a lack of respect, but out of a need to keep the message clear. Lives are being ruined on all sides.

The numbers for Iraqi civilians who have died in Iraq because of the war is taken from www.iraqbodycount.org. This is a conservative number because it counts only civilian deaths that have been reported by multiple English-language sources. The numbers of Iraqi civilians that have died certainly is higher. A report published in one of the world’s top medical journals, The Lancet, estimates the number of deaths to be at or above 100,000. The Web site www.iraqmortality.org lays out a helpful explanation of the difficulty in counting civilian deaths, and the differences in numbers. The carnage being done to the Iraqi people can be seen at www.robert-fisk.com/iraqwarvictims_page1.htm.

I print the death tolls in hopes that young people will debate whether this war is worth. Is war ever worth it? Some say it is; some disagree.

We will print columns that further debate rather than hinder it.

I don’t want the Daily opinion pages to be a forum exclusively for views on the Iraq war. There are too many other pressing issues affecting students today. Readers need not worry that the Daily Opinions section will stop being a venue for diverse views on diverse topics.

I am anticipating an influx of column submissions dealing with Iraq. Many of the column submissions dealing with Iraq will be published online at www.mndaily.com/iraq. Here you will find this column, the sources for the numbers printed, the editorial board’s view of the war and submissions from people like you. Here you’ll find viewpoints supporting the war, viewpoints against the war and many in between.

The bottom line is that a debate is not being had in our nation. We’re trying to prove that at least at The Minnesota Daily, debate can be had. Through all of this, it must be understood that this is the opinions section and that opinions here are separate from the news section of the Daily. The views expressed are those of their author, not of the Daily as an institution.

Why highlight the war in Iraq? Simply because it is the war of this generation. People our age are dying in Iraq. This war is costing the United States billions of dollars each day. It is not just another war, but a war that defines where our country is headed, its goals and how it strives to achieve its ideals. In the global society we live in, the war in Iraq defines our role with other countries. What are we fighting for?

Do we have the right to wage war? What say do the youths of this country have? What would the founders of the United States have thought? In a democracy, what is our role as an informed public?

In the end, we must remember that people have died, and we must do our best to remember and honor them. By always questioning war and summoning the courage to try to stop it, we will help to ensure wars fought are not done so frivolously, and thus lives lost are never in vain.

Karl Noyes is the Editorials and Opinions editor. Please send comments to [email protected]