As I write this, family members are reading the names of those killed in the attacks eight years ago. In previous years the reading was broadcast live on the radio, almost an hour of names tolled one per second, every name someone’s heartrbreak, someone’s tragedy. The name of someone who went to work and never came home, family waiting and hoping for that long long day, as almost all of us did, jumping every time the phone rang, losing hope as others checked in.
I grieve for them, but I wish we would stop and take a moment not just to remember those deaths, but the hundreds of thousands who have died as a result of our policies following that day.
I’ve been doing some research this morning and here’s a number to think about:
That’s one fairly conservative estimate of how many people — civilians, US and coalition military, private contractors, Iraqi and Afghani military, enemy combatants — have died since 2001 in these two wars.
The number I quoted above comes from Unknown News, which is a blog run by a couple who say they are “disgusted with the Democratic and Republican parties,” believe in “liberty and justice for all” and describe themselves as “happily married low-income nom de plumes and rabble-rousers from Madison, Wisconsin.” Whatever their beliefs they have worked pretty hard to track down the many sources for casualties, and the page I linked to documents pretty carefully how they assembled that number, which they believe is conservative.
I agree with their characterization of that number. A more explicitly anti-war site, antiwar.com, uses the number 1,339,771.
Other estimates and counts worth looking at:
4,258 US military (a fairly definite number; this one is from globalsecurity.org)
101,539 civilians (iraqbodycount.org)
11,520 military and police (Brookings)
1,315 private contractors (Wikipedia, reasonably well-sourced)
1,377 coalition casualties (icasualties.org)
5,650 civilian fatalities (very conservative number, from Brookings)
If we read those names, one per second, the rate at which the WTC casualty names are usually read, it would take eight days. But of course, we don’t know most of those names. Not every death was innocent, of course. Some of those people died in combat against our forces, but do we not honor the dead of our enemies? Some of them were terrorists. Would they have preferred to have led normal lives rather than being driven to horrific deeds? I don’t equate the death of a firefighter trying to rescue civilians with the death of a man who blows a truck up to kill civilians. But I do equate their lives and their value as people.
We should never forget those who died on 9/11. Their families certainly never will. But neither will three-quarters of a million other families forget their own tragedies, and whether they were poor Afghani civilians trying to get some gasoline, or soldiers fighting a war for a dictator, or kids asleep in their beds, we should not forget them either. Surely we do not think their lives were worth any less than those of the firefighters and police officers and office workers who died here.