Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A commendable example of citizenship

Many people turn regularly to the web site Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, for a comprehensive, up-to-date tally of deaths and injuries in the Iraq war -- or at least as comprehensive a tally as is possible, since Iraqi casualties are not systematically reported. ICCC maintains a database of U.S., U.K., and other coalition forces killed in theater; a compendium of news articles on troops wounded in Iraq; reports of Iraqi civilian deaths and deaths of foreign contractors; hotlinks to the latest news stories out of Iraq and from the home front; and statistical tables and analyses.

It's all drawn from readily accessible public sources but the Pentagon doesn't bother to add it all up. ICCC is an essential document of history, and it's also the place to go to watch the counter click on deaths and injuries in the war. It's at ICCC that the world gathered to watch the thousands column on U.S. military deaths click over to "2," and that's where we'll watch the number go to 2,100 today.

I asked the folks there if they wanted to say anything about who they are and why they do it for this post, but they declined. Fortunately, Ann Varela in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution told the story back in October. Here's a reprint since the A J-C has taken down the original. The site is a volunteer project, done on personal initiative, of Michael White, a computer programmer from Stone Mountain, Georgia, and Patricia Kniesler, a civil engineer from San Francisco. The two met on-line and have never met in person, but they are committed to continuing the collaboration "as long as there are troops dying overseas," even though it is just one more responsibility on top of work and family.

They don't go out of their way to make any political points, they don't try to interpret, they don't comment. They just make a public record. What a surprise, then, that they have received baskets full of angry e-mails. According to the Varela article, these came from supporters of the war who, as we know all too well, think that it is unpatriotic to notice that Americans are being killed in Iraq, and from opponents of the war who wanted more on Iraqi deaths. (I have a feeling those tended to be very different in tone, don't you?) Anyway, U.S. military families have praised the site, and many now contribute links to stories about their loved ones who have been killed or wounded. So I want to say thanks to Michael and Patricia, and the other folks who help them out. You give us hope for our country.

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