Thursday, March 30, 2006

Flash app showing Coalition force casualties

BoingBoing posted a link to a Flash-based visualizer showing Coalition casualties in the war in Iraq. Each frame of the animation represents a day, and it plays back at 10 frames per second. Each flash represents a fatal attack on Coalition forces.

This is a very good use of Flash to help visualize complex data. If you watch the animation, it's clear that the violence is not slowing down, nor is it contained, and it's much clearer than anything you've heard a pundit on either side describe. Be sure to check out the animation.

But more disturbing, though, is when you watch the animation again, only this time, you uncheck the USA casualties so it doesn't show where US soldiers died. The difference is staggering. We are bearing a huge portion of the fatalities for this war, way more than all the other countries helping out combined, including the UK. Even if it's just proportional to our deployment there, that just underscores the fact that this is a "coalition" in name only.

I'm pretty liberal, but I break with the party on the withdrawal issue. I don't think we went in for the right reasons (i.e., fabricated WMD claims, fear- and hate-mongering over 9/11), I don't think we were prepared when we went in (i.e., weak medical preparedness, no exit strategy), and I suspect we're making more enemies than we're killing over there. But now that we're there, I think we have a duty to stay there until the place is stable again. It's only going to make matters worse if we withdraw and let Iraq settle its differences with a region-destabilizing, bloody civil war brought on by a vacuum of power of our own creation.

But visualizations like this sure test my resolve on that stance. My gut reaction is to get our people the heck out of there. This must be why the White House prevents the press from reporting on returning caskets, even when they are photographed anonymously - reminders of the human cost of war do little to raise people's "patriotic" support for it.

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