Thursday, June 28, 2007

The cost

Each day, The New York Times publishes Names of the Dead, a box inside of which are the names of soldiers whose deaths have been announced by the Defense Department since the last edition. Most days, I read it; spending a few moments looking at the names, ranks, hometowns and units of the dead seems like the least I can do to pay honor to their memories.

Yesterday, I was particularly struck by the number of NCOs who were listed. Among 11 men there were six sergeants; there was also one lieutenant. The Talmud says that to save one life is to save the world; I suppose the reverse of that is that to lose a life is to lose the world. Even if we do not take the humanist position that each life--Iraqi, American, soldier, civilian--is of equal value, the cost that the US is paying in Iraq in terms of damage to our military is horrendous. Non-Com's and junior officers make the services go. Taken together, they are much more important than the much-less-numerous senior officers. (Kipling said, "The backbone of the Army/Is the non-commissioned man.")

We don't need another reason to end our misbegotten adventure in Iraq, but here is one anyway. We are losing the best of us in pursuit of, what?

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