The Numbers on October 25th.

As of today, October 25, 2006, the number of American Armed Forces personnel killed in the Iraq war has exceeded the number of persons killed in the terror attack on the World Trade Center Towers. The number of persons in the Towers killed was 2,801. The number of military personnel killed in Iraq as of today is 2,804.

These numbers mean nothing by themselves. The numbing and stunning death of so many on that one day, and the death of the firefighters who tried to save them, stands as a single terrible event. The slow agonizing trickle of news of deaths in Iraq has taken years. Yet for everyone who knew of someone who died in New York that day, there are equally people who know of someone who has died in Iraq. The news is devastating either way.

The Administration argues that being at war in Iraq is somehow connected to the deaths of those in the Towers. If so then perhaps the occasion marking the time when we have put in harm’s way sufficient people to where their deaths equal the deaths in the Towers is an occasion for reflection.

Each week that I can I stand with a group of folk here in Lewes, remembering the human costs of war. The Silent Vigil is just that, silent. We hold signs with the numbers who have died, now at 2,804, those who are wounded, 20,687, the number of non mortal casualties, now at 44,779, and the number of Iraqi dead – conservatively at 49,610. And now some of us hold signs that tell of the other human cost – the money spent in this war that is not available for other work of value.

The numbers are each of some mother’s son, some mother’s daughter, some relation to someone; each remembered, God willing, by another who wonders why.

Numbers are only a mnemonic device, a way of remembering, that the human costs continue and grow and that in the end there are more grieving persons gathering and still no sign of light and life.

Light and life is what faith is about, not Articles or purity of belief, and surely our faith cannot be in the war dead whose numbers keep rising. We must look elsewhere and find other numbers, the numbers of people who will struggle for another Way.

No one will much care that there are 2 million Episcopalians in the US, or 17 million Anglicans in Nigeria, but they might care if there are here, and here, and there, even a few voices that say “No” to the ways of death which is war, and “Yes” to the ways of life, which is peace.

Maybe that is the Way we ought to go.


  1. Since blogger doesn't seem to support trackbacks, I thought I would just post instead and thank you for your comments, and mention that I have linked to this on my blog.

  2. Thank you for this, Mark ... for your witness, your clarity and your commitment to calling TEC to the hard work of living out the Gospel. (And I'd be writing that even if I didn't have a son serving in Iraq!)

  3. Oh. So we have finally hit the mark, as it were. I had oft wondered if there would be any big protests or noting of this fact but other than your blog, I have seen nothing, Maybe the silence is because we have all become numbed or, as you write, it has happened so slowly rather than all at once.

  4. Mortality and morbidity directly related to combat is but one way to note the costs of war. I recently heard Cynthia Enloe, feminist scholar in the area of International Relationships, lecture on war, focusing on the war in Iraq. She made the point that the usual ways of talking about war, particularly counting the costs of war (deaths, wounded, etc.) fail to take women's lives seriously. Therefore we underestimate the costs of war and also underestimate how what it will actually take to make peace. As support for her thesis, she gave examples of the increase of domestic violence during wartime (both Iraqi and US) and the decreased attention it receives.

  5. And then, of course, there are the 400,000 or 600,000 or however many Iraqi dead. And, according to the UNHCR some 3 million displaced Iraqis, about half in the country and the others in Jordan, Syria and a few in Lebanon. What has been done in our name?


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