This is just the count of American deaths in the most recent newsworthy conflict. The ongoing crusade to destroy the evil oppressor and bring our people freedom and safety.
It doesn't count the allies, civilians and enemy soldiers dead.
What mark on a conscript's uniform makes his death legitimate? What myth enables young men to be torn from their loved ones at gunpoint and sent off to death or glory? I could be gone in a flash, my family destroyed for the ego of my leader.
Of course, we are the good guys in this war. Many things distinguish our leaders from Saddam Hussein. But our myths are the same.
To die in defence of ones country, ones clan, ones gods, in Crusade or Jihad: the young warrior goes straight to heaven, paradise,
Old legend dishonours a peaceful death. In English cathedrals the graves of those who died in battle have a Lion at their feet: the graves of those who died peacefully a Dog.
I wish for a Dog's death. Quietly, old, beside the fire. May my glory be the way I loved and cared, not the way I died.
All honour to those whose lives have been taken in the service of freedom. And many conscripts to tyranny: their deaths too are honourable within the old myth. But a horrible waste. I do not know if they go to Valhalla, but they leave their families to weep and their lives unfulfilled.
The thousand dead died not to save our skin from the terrible weapons that the evil one held ready against us. Some of us suspected this to be a tall tale before the war started: all of us know it now. The dead are dead because our leader decreed that he save us in this way. George Bush has been given no better vision of greatness. When his people were attacked, he knew only one way to defend them.
We need new myths. We are humanity. No race of people is my enemy, and I need no ancient King to rise and fight them. There are evil fanatics: but they are not a people, they are not a religion, they are desperados of the old myth clinging to the coherence we have given them. They must be fought precisely, tenaciously, without distraction, exposed to the whole world, left with no mythical enemy to unite ordinary citizens against.
No more glory in violent death. No greatness in ordering war and promising paradise for the killed. Such myths are for the past. We need new leadership.