He Was 22, She Was 12
He was 22, a corporal in the Marines from Preston, Iowa, a “city” incorporated in 1890 with a present population of 949. He died in a hospital in Germany of “wounds received from an explosive device while on patrol in Helmand province [Afghanistan].” Of him, his high school principal said, “He was a good kid.” He is survived by his parents.
He was 20, a private in the 10th Mountain Division from Boyne City, population 3,735 souls, which bills itself as “the fastest growing city in Northern Michigan.” He died of “wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire” and is survived by his parents.
These were the last two of the 10 Americans whose deaths in Afghanistan were announced by the Pentagon Thanksgiving week. The other eight came from Apache Junction, Arizona; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Navarre, Florida; Witchita, Kansas; San Jose, California; Moline, Illinois; and Danville, California. Six of them died from improvised explosive devices (roadside bombs), assumedly without ever seeing the Afghan enemies who killed them. One died of “indirect fire” and another “while conducting combat operations.” On such things, Defense Department press releases are relatively tight-lipped, as was the Army, for instance, when it released news that same week of 17 “potential suicides” among active-duty soldiers in October.
These days, the names of the dead dribble directly onto the inside pages of newspapers, or simply into the ether, in a war now opposed by 63% of Americans, according to the latest CNN/ORC opinion poll, but in truth barely remembered by anyone in this country. It’s a reality made easier by the fact that the dead of America’s All-Volunteer Army tend to come from forgettable places — small towns, obscure suburbs, third or fourth-rank cities — and a military that ever fewer Americans have any connection with.
Aside from those who love them, who pays much attention anymore to the deaths of American troops in distant lands? These deaths are, after all, largely dwarfed by local fatality counts like the 16 Americans who died in accidents on Ohio’s highways over the long Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 or the 32,788 Americans who died in road fatalities that same year?
So who, that same week, was going to pay the slightest attention to the fate of 50 year-old Mohammad Rahim, a farmer from Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan? Four of his children — two sons and two daughters, all between four and 12 years old — were killed in a “NATO” (undoubtedly American) airstrike, while working in their fields. In addition, an eight-year-old daughter of his was “badly wounded.” Whether Rahim himself was killed is unclear from the modest reports we have of the “incident.”