Sunday, December 31, 2006

3,000+

There's no escaping the brutal geographic poetic justice in the news: On the last day of 2006, at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the preceding twelve, the Pentagon announced the death of the 3,000th American soldier in Iraq.

Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, was killed Thursday by small arms fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said.

Donica was one of at least 111 U.S. service members reported to have died in December.

The poetic justice? Donica hailed from Texas, the home state of President Bush. One can't help but consider a possible scenario, something that might happen years from now. Bush, oblivious to the connection, passes through Spring, Texas and stops to press the flesh of his kindred Texans.

The president will be received warmly, with due respect for the office, if not the former officeholder. But some will question the ex-president, with their eyes if not their actual voices. "Why, Mr. President? Why, sir? Why isn't Dustin Donica here among us today?" And no answer will be sufficient. No answer will be answer enough.

We should note that, the chaos of war being what it is, there is at least one other census of American dead, an accounting that makes another soldier the 3000th casualty of an unnecessary war.

According to a survey by CNN, the death of Sgt. Edward Shaffer, of Mount Alto, Pa., was the 3,000th American military fatality reported since the invasion began in March 2003.

Shaffer, all of 23, was wounded on Nov. 13 by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, the restive western Iraqi city where U.S. troops and insurgents trade fire on a near-daily basis, CNN reported.

But even with Shaffer's hometown, the poetic justice still obtains: Shaffer died at Fort Sam Houston ... Texas.

The deaths of Donica and Shaffer are the latest in a grim accounting: The American death toll was at 1,000 in September of 2004 and 2,000 by October 2005.

And it doesn't matter which of these tragically noble patriots was No. 3,000 -- whether the two stone-faced officers of the official notification detail ring a doorbell in Texas or Pennsylvania or the other forty-eight states, or its territories. Our needless national agony persists, from one year to the next. We are weaker as a nation, one by one by one.
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Image credit: Department of Defense (public domain)

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