War is more than a numbers game

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Come you masters of war: You that build the big guns. You that build the death planes, You that build all the bombs. You that hide behind walls, You that hide behind desks. I just want you to know I can see through your masks.

-- Bob Dylan

For the nation's military leaders, its politicians looking to get their sound bites to the media, and the spin doctors who are paid to make chicken salad from that proverbial ... well, you know the product ... war is a numbers game.

Representatives of the aforementioned groups affect their most solemn voices, dredge up their most compassionate platitudes and remind us often of the "price of freedom" as they dispatch the latest numbers to a country more than willing to buy into their cliches and accept those numbers at way less than face value.

Right now, the numbers are sobering: Accounts vary, but different sources show 6,051 Americans dead, 56,900 more injured, 192,114 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 1,621 with missing limbs, 195,547 with traumatic brain injuries, 2,129 military suicides and $1.8 trillion and counting spent on the latest war, a war waged based on lies and prolonged on more of the same.

For the people of Southwest Georgia, though, particularly the people of Lee County and specifically the family of Lance Cpl. Steven Sutton, all those numbers are of secondary importance. The number that haunts them now each new day is the No. 1. That's the number of sons, of husbands, of dads, of friends, of heroes they lost in a country half a world away.

The outpouring of community love has no doubt helped Lance Cpl. Sutton's family try and cope with the fact that while he gave his life in the most noble of pursuits, he did so in a campaign with no clear plan for victory and no real timetable for strategic withdrawal.

Certainly even those of us who never knew Lance Cpl. Sutton were touched by his story, each in our own personal way. And each of us feels a tiny fraction of the loss that his family, friends and loved ones cope with on a daily basis.

Our collective community loss has also helped us to understand a little better that, despite the spin and self-serving condolences coming from places like Washington, all over America there are families, friends and loved ones who are grieving for their own lost sons and daughters. And, like our community, their loss is more than a part of the collective 6,000 soldiers lost in combat. They have their own 1 to deal with.

Throughout recorded history, mankind has engaged in warfare as if the act were some kind of deranged birthright. Whether defending sullied honor, protecting property or fulfilling some megalomaniacal quest for power, there have always been those willing to risk the lives of others to achieve some ideological end. In all such battles, opposing sides have never doubted that right was on their side, that they were wearing the white hats in the struggle of good vs. evil.

Warriors who engage in such battles often do so with no clear understanding of ideologies or causes. They are trained to embody the motto, "Ours not to question why, ours but to do or die." There's an honor and a bravery in such combatants that only they and their comrades in arms can understand.

The rest of us are left to put our faith in the causes that drew these warriors to combat, to believe that their leaders have indeed placed them on the side of good in the fight against evil. And while we honor each of them for their service, for facing enemies we know only from sketchy -- and often propoganda-laced -- intelligence offered by our media, many of us are angered by the justification for the loss of these good and brave soldiers.

Our anger today is not just over what we see as senseless sacrifice. It's over the fact that our sons and daughters have been asked to put their lives on the line for missions based on the lies of one presidential administration and perpetuated by another that promised to bring them home.

Which, I guess, is easy enough to do when your numbers game is filled with such horrific wartime strategy as "acceptable loss." We're not privy to the kind of planning that uses such gruesome strategic numbers. But it's a safe bet that for families and communities who send their soldiers off to war, the number that will always matter to them is that precious 1.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.


agirl_25 3 years, 2 months ago

When I was little my Dad came to school and got me out of class and we drove up north to his brother's place. Uncle John had been killed in a war in some godforsaken place I never even heard of. I remember the soldiers shooting the guns over his grave and thinking they were shooting him. I remember the sound of Taps being played, the bagpipe playing Amazing Grace, the flag being handed to my Aunt, and I remember most of all the tears. A few years later my older brother came home from the Korean war, badly wounded, taking months and months to recover. Then years later another brother's B-52 went down in Laos during Vietnam. I can recall when my husband was in Vietnam and the nightly news had in vivid color, men coming out of the jungle all bloody and broken. I thought it was so wrong to show those pictures..I can recall how upsetting it was for my children, then 4 and 6, to see images like that. I also remember the lies the politicians told and I can still recall those famous words ..peace is at hand from Kissinger in October1972, (and that Nixon had a secret plan) a few weeks before the November elections. Lies, lies and more lies......the war did not end.(we had to wait till 1975!!) .there was no secret plan....the war in Vietnam was fought by stupid old men in Washington DC, not by able combat men in the war zone. Ask any Nam vet today and he will probably tell you the same thing. Am I angry about the men and women who are losing their lives in the present war? Absolutely. In my opinion it is stupid and senseless for us to be there. I do NOT believe the entire population over THERE is worth the life of ONE Lance Cpl Sutton. I was so young the first time I was touched by the horror of war and I still feel the pain. Please know I grieve for you Sutton family.


RedEric 3 years, 2 months ago

I agree with agirl. None of those countries are worth ONE American life. It is none of our business how another country treats it's people. All of the lives and all of the money spent to improve the lot of our "allies" is misspent and just plain wrong.


Trustbuster 3 years, 2 months ago

Pres. Eisenhower warned America in 1961 about the influence of the military industrial complex on government. Unfortunately we have not heeded his warning. Today, the US spends more than any other nation in national defense. We have troops stationed in about 170 nations. We still have military bases operating in Western Europe. In 1955 Eisenhower told our European allies to shoulder more of the burden in providing for their security. Now bases, troops and ships are still there long after the demise of the USSR. How many more American sons and daughters must die fighting somebody else's war? Since 1945 American presidents have committed our service people to numerous conflicts and brush fire wars without a declaration. The executive has become a warrior in chief instead of a commander in chief. Our previous president promised a "war without end" in fighting terrorism. This means no truce, no surrender and no formal declaration ending the war. Of course I support the troops when the fighting begins but we need a more serious debate about fighting future wars when the costs are calculated. I agree with Thucydides in stating "only the dead have seen an end to war."


LoneCycler 3 years, 2 months ago

So much for fighting and winning the "right war" as president Obama said in 2008 on the campaign trail. Safely elected the president focused his efforts on socialized health care and pumping money to his campaign bundlers engaged in green energy boondoggles. With results in Afghanistan showing little promise that our forces could soon leave without it looking like a total surrender, the president sent another 20,000 in early 2009. With muddled results, he sent another 30,000 in December 2009 creating his very own "surge." Since then, what do we hear about the results? There is talk now that we want to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. As if negotiating with 6th century savages is possible in real or moral terms. Everyone knows the president has decided to pull the plug regardless of the consequences. Yes, we are all sick of the war and a terrible price has been paid. But how demoralizing is it that even our president thinks that success is not possible? We don't have a "Commander" we have a "Demoralizer" in Chief.


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