From negative to noxious numbers: War deaths


The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan in October marked the highest total in any month of the war.  The October tally raised the ever-growing total to more than 830 since the 2001 invasion.

That’s grim news indeed, but not as startling as what the Soviet Union encountered when they faced the same enemy during its 10-year war there.


The total of Soviet soldiers killed from 1979 to 1989. Sadly, the number of afflicted skyrocketed to more than 500,000 when the wounded and those addicted to Afghan’s vast supply of heroin were added.

The comparison of negative to noxious numbers is stressed now because of the pending decision from President Obama on whether to add more of America’s youth into combat zones.

Although this next quote from “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair is in reference to a war a century prior between Japan and Russia, the Tank thought of its timeless pertinence to current affairs.

“Realize it! Realize it! Realize that out upon the plains of Manchuria tonight two hostile armies are facing each other — that now, while we are seated here, a million human beings may be hurled at each other’s throats, striving with the fury of maniacs to tear each other to pieces! And this in the twentieth century, nineteen hundred years since the Prince of Peace preached as divine, and here two armies of men are rending and tearing each other like wild beasts of the forest! Philosophers have reasoned, prophets have denounced, poets have wept and pleaded — and still this hideous Monster roams at large! We have schools and colleges, newspapers and books; we have searched the heavens and the earth, we have weighed and probed and reasoned — and all to equip men to destroy each other! We call it War, and pass it by — but do not put me off with platitudes and conventions — come with me, come with me — realize it! See the bodies of men pierced by bullets, blown into pieces by bursting shells! Hear the crunching of the bayonet, plunged into human flesh; hear the groans and the shrieks of agony, see the faces of men crazed by pain of a man. This blood is still steaming — it was driven by a human heart! Almighty God! and this goes on — it is systematic, organized, premeditated! And we know it, and read of it, and take it for granted; our papers tell of it, and the presses are not stopped — our churches know of it, and do not close their doors — the people behold it, and do not rise up in horror and revolution!”

Last week, I had the privilege to listen to a first-hand account of war from a Vietnam veteran. The Tank watched as his eyes widened with intensity as he described his story about “men pierced with bullets, blow into pieces by bursting shells.” Saw his face “crazed by pain of a man,” if you will.

The nearly 60-year-old man believes in service to country — either military or peace corp. — and he stressed the importance of Obama taking a thoughtful deliberation on whether to send more troops to theater.

During his ongoing deliberation, Obama took a rare trip Wednesday night to honor dead soldiers as they arrived in caskets from foreign countries. He called the rare trip a “sobering” reminder.

Let’s hope that reminder convinces him that the risk is higher than the rewards.

Keep the troops home so we don’t have to witness their “shrieks of agony.”



2 responses to “From negative to noxious numbers: War deaths

  1. Risks higher than reward, indeed. Just to comment on the number of Soviet dead – it is worth remembering that in that particular invasion of Afghanistan most of the fighting was conducted by ground troops that, while having a notable technological advantage over the mujhadeen fighters, in no way really compares to the high-tech, air-power heavy war that the US is currently conducting. A better way to gauge comparable damage and carnage of the two wars would be to contrast the deaths of Afghans. I am currently not familiar with any figure in this regard and to my knowledge no highly publicized study has come out such as the one dealing with Iraqi deaths published a few years back in the Lancet medical journal. It would be interesting to find some numbers, if indeed anyone keeps track of what happens to Afghans ( a point noticeably absent in the current debate about whether to send more US troops to the country.) Perhaps you could dig something up??

    One more comment. Afghanistan has long been known as a poppy, and hence opiate, producing country. It is only since the US invaded though that the country became far and away the largest producer in the world, now accounting from 80 of the world poppy production according to the most recent report I read. Not to defend the Taliban or anything, but my understanding is that they took huge strides in eradicating the cultivation of the poppy when they were ruling the county. Just as when the US was involved in wars in Indochina (then center of world poppy cultivation), the heron trade seems to follow the CIA and its stooges…That sounds almost conspiracy theory like, the sad thing is that it is true.

  2. What a powerful quote.

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