Friendly-fire deaths represent just one percent of US military casualties in Iraq, according to figures provided by our government. The figure pales in comparison with those for World War II (12-14 percent), Vietnam (10-14 percent), and Grenada (13 percent), making us question — particularly after the Pat Tillman cover-up — how the frequency could be so different from previous conflicts. Given the frequent chaos of combat in Iraq, this seems unlikely.
In the case of Tillman, an NFL player who rejected the big bucks that come with being a pro athlete to serve in Iraq, the Army went to considerable lengths to create a deception about his death. Initially, Tillman was said to have died as the result of enemy fire. Now, a score of Army personnel stand to be punished for hiding the truth — that he was killed by friendly fire.
Tillman was one of 17 “friendly fire” casualties accounted for at the time of his death in 2006. Few of the other soldiers mistakenly killed by their comrades received a great deal of press coverage. Certainly, none received the kind of global media mourning generated by Tillman’s celebrity status.
Yet every dead soldier’s family sheds the same tears, faces the same sleepless nights, and seeks endless possible answers to the same looming questions: “Why my son?,” “Why my husband?,” and, “Why my daughter?”
We have a societal habit of investing more value in some lives than others. Firefighters and police officers who died in New York City around 9/11 are glorified more than the thousands of others they could not save. World Trade Center victims are spoken of more often than those who died in Pennsylvania or at the Pentagon during that same attack.
When a police officer dies in the line of duty, we bring out the flags, the bagpipes and all his or her brethren from other states. Perhaps the heightened recognition is due for those who risk their lives, yet wives and mothers die daily “in the line of duty” and few notice outside their immediate circle.
When baseball great Mickey Mantle needed an organ donation, he moved to the head of the waiting list, even though he had destroyed his own health through years of heavy drinking and other self-inflicted problems.
People worry more about Anna Nicole Smith’s million-dollar baby daughter than they will ever care about the thousands of infants left orphaned each year by American mothers and fathers who overdose, abandon their children, or are removed from the child’s life because they are seriously abusive or unfit. Most of those babies have no trust funds and nothing to look forward to but endless foster care placements or cold, institutional lives. Who seeks truth and justice for them?
So if all human life has value, does it follow that all human lives have equal value? The answer: apparently not.
: This Just In
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