An American helicopter went down in western Iraq, killing 30 American Marines and 1 sailor. The loss appears to be due to bad weather. I am heartsick at such a toll.
This is the scale of loss that I have dreaded ever since September 2003 when it became apparent to me that the fighting in Iraq was more than just mopping up the last diehards. Such losses, like the November 2003 helicopter downings or the December 2004 Mosul mess tent bombing, shock the public. I've feared that the enemy might pull off a Beirut-type attack that would kill hundreds at one blow and undermine the public's determination to win in Iraq and turn over the fight to a functioning Iraqi democracy.
As we mourn our losses, please remember that the cause for which they died is just. And remember that this was an accident. It could have happened in Hawaii or California or Okinawa. It happened in Iraq and so is marked as a cost of war. But I am sometimes amazed that we have had few of these bad days over the last nearly two years. It remains true that despite the persistence of the Baathist resistance, that it is more likely for us to suffer a large one-time loss due to weather or even friendly fire. Our troops truly outclass our enemies that much.
So mourn this loss. And adjust our operations to minimize such needless casualties. And by all means, remain vigilant so that the enemy can never inflict a Beirut barracks-scale attack on our forces in Iraq or Kuwait. As awful as this loss is, the real tragedy would be if it discouraged us when we are on the verge of victory. Our Marines won't run. We shouldn't, either.