Our country does not want war, it wants peace. It has not decreed this memorial season as an honor to war, with its terrible waste and attendant train of suffering and hardship which reaches onward into the years of peace. Yet war is not the worst of evils, and these days have been set apart to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice.
–President Calvin Coolidge, 1923
To date, there have been over 112,000 documented U.S. troop casualties in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of these, 6,461 troops have died; 48,253 have been wounded in action; and more than 58,000 medically evacuated due to injury or disease.
…Every day, five U.S. soldiers attempt suicide, and fully 5 percent of the warzone deaths of U.S. troops are the result of suicide. In addition, 18 U.S. veterans attempt suicide every day, more than four times the national average.
…Estimates of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq alone range from a conservative current figure of 116,000 (Iraq Body Count project) to over a million (the 2008 report by Opinion Research Business). The World Heath Organization report in 2008 determined that the casualty figure was double the IBC’s tally, and a 2006 Johns Hopkins report said the total civilian casualties in Iraq numbered 655,000 to date. Certainly, more than 125,000 civilians have been injured in Iraq and 4 million displaced internally. By most estimates, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since the 2001 invasion, and over 3 million displaced.
There is no end in sight. Our worldwide war has spread to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and other countries.
UPDATE: The New York Times delves into President Obama’s secret drone war:
Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.
Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. “It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
UPDATE: Andrew J. Bacevich: Obama Expands Secret Wars Across the Globe
As U.S. special ops forces roam the world slaying evildoers, the famous question posed by David Petraeus as the invasion of Iraq began — “Tell me how this ends” — rises to the level of Talmudic conundrum.