Thursday, June 30, 2005

A math problem

The latest number of deaths in the 9/11 attacks I could find is 2992.

The latest number of American deaths in Iraq I could find (military deaths, obviously) is 1744.

It's 834 days today (6/30/2005) since the war in Iraq began (3/19/2003).

At that rate, about 2.1 American soldiers have died (on average) for every day of the war in Iraq. I'll use that 2.1 again.

If we make a back-of-the-envelope assumption that the rate of deaths in Iraq has been constant over the war to today, then on February 17, 2007, the war in Iraq will have killed as many American soldiers as the 9/11 attacks killed civilians.

From President Bush's recent speech, "more than 2,000 members of Iraqi security forces [ed.: I assume this is military and police combined] have given their lives in the line of duty", which is still more than the number of Americans who have died. How many Iraqi civilians have died?

If we believe Donald Rumsfeld, the insurgency will last between 5 and 12 more years.

If the soldiers keep dying at the same rate, 3833 to 9198 more American soldiers will die in Iraq. The numbers for Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces I leave as an exercise for the reader.

To appreciate the magnitude of these important numbers, read this analogy.

So here is the cold comfort from President Bush, his message to those of us who worry about these numbers, who lay them at his feet:

I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I.

Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake.

Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done.

It would send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve.

And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out.

We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed and not a day longer.

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