That number is appalling for the radical antiwar faction. But why? I can follow the argument about any death constituting a tragedy. And I can follow the argument that we should care more about U.S. casualties than those of other nations (and especially those of an enemy motivated by evil). On the bottom line, the Iraq War has cost extremely little in terms of U.S. lives compared to other wars.
The first battle of Manassas/Bull Run, though famous as the first large engagement, was relatively light in cost: 2,708 for the Union, 1,981 for the Confederates.Two thousand seven hundred and eight. About 500 short of the current total number of deaths in the Iraq war from hostile action. To be sure, there was opposition to the Civil War when it did not go well for the first year or two. The parallel between today's antiwar progressive and the Copperhead of yesterday seems legitimate:
The Copperheads were a loosely organized group of Midwestern Democrats who vehemently opposed the war and the administration of President Abraham Lincoln. The reasons for Copperhead opposition were numerous but focused primarily on the negative economic impact of the Civil War particularly in agriculture and banking; Lincoln's declaration of martial law and suspension of habeas corpus in 1863; and, for some, the Emancipation Proclamation.The complaints that Bush has tanked the economy via the war effort and seized monarchical power by his treatment of habeas corpus certainly ring with Civil War nostalgia. Perhaps the complaint about the Emancipation Proclamation has its parallel in the regime change doctrine respecting Saddam Hussein.
It might be argued that war opposition plays pretty much the same tune on a consistent basis, and certainly there's some truth to that. But current war opposition probably draws most of it ideological drive from the American experience of the 1960s. The United States did step up its involvement in Southeast Asia based on fishy circumstances (Gulf of Tonkin), and the war rationale left a large segment of society unconvinced.
The end of the Vietnam War was fixed in the public consciousness as the righting of a wrong by the government. Government, with assistance from Nixon's Watergate scandal, took a big hit to its credibility. The press, which saw itself duped by the government in the 1960s, saw itself as the antidote to government abuse (a view reinforced by the high-profile Watergate scandal).
That template informs the opinions of many when it comes to the Iraq War. Regardless of the fact that U.S. intelligence gave its sincere consensus account of Iraq (with the intelligence agencies of our allies concurring) and the government acted on the basis of that intelligence , the Vietnam template rules the thinking of many. As a result, "Bush lied, people died."
And, as with Vietnam, many in the public view the enemy as intractable and invincible. Though history had shown repeatedly that wise tactics could defeat a widespread insurgency (Portugal's experience in Angola perhaps serving as the gold standard), people somehow assumed that the United States pulled out of Vietnam having done about as well as possible.
As more was learned of the Vietnam War in retrospect, it appears that the United States and South Vietnam were in better shape than was thought. The U.S. ability to support South Vietnam was up to the task of matching North Korea's sugar daddies.
Too many in the U.S. learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam, and it colors their thinking on the Iraq War.