At the same time, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has announced that 2009 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan for non-combatants. More than 2,400 unarmed people were killed in the conflict last year, a 14% increase over 2008. Of course, this doesn't count the tens of thousands of wounded and displaced, or the despair felt by Afghans under a corrupt and incompetent government and foreign occupying army. What the UNAMA figures do offer is undeniable evidence that the war is not coming to conclusion, but escalation.
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Neither number reflects the true horror of war, nor the suffering of the families left behind. Numbers can't gauge the loss of heart and talent that each of the dead brought with them to their graves. It could be said that reducing people to a number is part of the problem. It's the generals and politicians, after all, who calculate their war strategies based on projections of "acceptable losses."
Yet this number also begs a moment of pause, and forces a nation to ask itself: was it worth it? And how many more? The 1,000th US death in Iraq marked a turning point for media coverage of the war, a national recognition that we had immersed ourselves in quagmire, and a revitalization of the anti-war movement. Today the US population, still firmly anti-war, seems to have accepted this permanent state of conflict, and these grim figures have come and gone with only shallow ripples of discontent.
What happens next is up to us. After what seems like a post-election period of hibernation, the anti-war movement is waking up. Just look at the calendar of events this week: we're taking to the streets and churches and campuses; fundraising and educating and agitating. And we need you!