Tuesday, January 10, 2006


The Armed Forces Medical Examiner conducts a study of the U.S. Marines who died in Iraq up to June 2005. The New York Times reports that the study "for the first time shows the cost in lives lost from inadequate armor."

ANTI: "So what's your excuse now, chickenhawk? Did you see this study? Eighty percent of the Marines who died in Iraq would have been saved by body armor, but your Shrubbie and your Rummy were too cheap and callous to provide it, in their rush to this unjust war."

PRO: But that's not what the study says: It focused on Marines who died of bullet or shrapnel wounds to the shoulders or torso. It looked at only 93 deaths out of 401 total Marine deaths.

ANTI: Oh, so those 93 mean nothing to you, chickenhawk? What if one of them was you? But it won't be because you're a chickenhawk.

PRO: Yes, they all matter. But you said ...

ANTI: Chickenhawk!

And so it goes. You can find that exchange, or the equivalent of it, on the comments section of a hundred blogs on any given day.

Every day we seem to slip deeper and deeper into the topoi that have no rigorous test in reality. Or that religiously close themselves off from any such test. These have consequences. In Germany in the 1930s, everyone -- even the die-hard anti-Nazis -- believed Germany had never been defeated in World War I, that it had been stabbed in the back by the "November criminals," then betrayed by the Allies in the peace settlement. That topos had enormous consequences for Europe in the 1940s.

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