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From the Outside Looking In


By Alexa Llewellyn





Putting Faces on Figures

No military plan survives the first step.

- Military Saying

It is estimated that a quarter of a million Americans are near the borders of Iraq, preparing for the next Gulf War. That's twice the number of school-aged children living in San Francisco. According to the Institute for Defense Analysis, the current U.S. military is composed of mainly lower-middle-class and middle-class men and women who have entered the service to get education benefits. Rank has its privileges. Of the 435 Congress members and 100 Senators, only four have children in the military. Only one of those children is enlisted.

The Army is the largest U.S. military branch. Even though 12% of the U.S.'s people are African American, the Institute for Defense Analysis has found that 23% of the Army's current military personnel is African American. Only 15% of the active military are women.

No one knows how many Iraqis and other nationalities (if the war arena becomes larger) will die. The current administration doesn't appear to have any concerns about this part of the war.

No one knows how many of our troops will die. Nor do our allies know how many of their troops will die. It is in the best political interests of our administration and our allies' administration to keep those numbers hazy. We do know that in the last Gulf War, 500 U.S. military personnel were killed and 140,000 of our military personnel were exposed to chemical agents and many have reported a wide range of symptoms. It is estimated that 20% of our Gulf War veterans have been diagnosed with possible after-effects of the chemical agents launched during the conflict. We don't know how many people will be injured - physically, emotionally, and/or mentally. We only know that people will be forever marred.

We don't know what type of structural damage will occur. We don't know how much environmental damage will occur. We only know that it will occur. And with an environmental record that rivals the Eisenhower administration, our current administration isn't going to worry about this kind of damage.

We don't know how many refugees from all over the war theater will flee from their homes. Nor do we know how many families will be lost or broken in the flight to safety. We do know that 50% of Iraqi's current population is under 16. Those children will be forever impacted by the bombing of U.S. troops and its allies on cities, towns, and outposts throughout Iraq. We know that many children will lose the safety of their families. But the safety of those children isn't a concern of our current administration.

We have the figures from the Gulf War. It is estimated that approximately 500 U.S. citizens were killed. According to Frontline, approximately 20,000 Iraqi military died in the conflict, and the Iraqi government states that 2,300 Iraqi civilians died during the air raids of the last Gulf War. But our current administration isn't worried about Iraqi deaths.

In Vietnam, 56,869 of the U.S. military members were killed and another 153,329 were seriously wounded between 1965 to 1973. In San Francisco's homeless shelters and among the panhandlers at the corner of almost every major street, you can find evidence of the hundreds of thousands who were emotionally scarred. A conservative estimate is that 1.8 million Vietnamese were killed in the conflicts. And the devastation of the war is evident to anyone who has visited this beautiful country - and has gone into its villages and cities.

Throughout San Francisco, you can also find evidence of families who fled from their homes and the homes of their ancestors, trying to find a safe space where they could re-create a life for their children - a safe space, but one sadly away from the rest of the people and families whom they love.

Currently, 50% of the junior officers in the military are married. Most of our fighting troops are from the military reserve units. Only a few days ago, they were school teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and insurance officers. Yet the current administration hides those proud designations with the spin of "the nation's fighting force."

They are still husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and lovers. They have left anxious parents, worried spouses and lovers, and confused children. Yet the current administration hopes that you will think them only as statistics. It is much easier for the current administration, our allies, and the military if you don't think of these soldiers, sailors, allies, civilians, children, mothers, and elderly as people. It makes easier to disregard the body bags when they finally come back home.