December 27th, 2006

The Return of the Mirror 3000 Meme

by Philip Baruth

Back in May, we wrote a post called “9/11 Is Not Iraq: The Mirror 3000 Meme.” It made the case that casualties in Iraq would probably reach 3000 just before the Midterms, and that Bush — egged on by a nervous GOP majority — would need to spin that horrific number in some shameless, counter-intuitive way.

coffins, coming home

As it turns out, we reached the number in question this past week — the point where casualties in Iraq equal the number lost in 9/11.

And, although the timing is a bit different, we’re still convinced that the White House and Fox News will opt for the rhetorical Hail-Mary outlined in that post back in May. It’s reprinted below, nearly in full.

3000. And that’s with the rather insane status quo.

God help us if we, in fact, surge.

9/11 Is Not Iraq: The Mirror 3000 Meme

As of this morning, the number of US casualties in Iraq is 2,415, after eleven troops died this past week. Last month saw a spike in deaths, to 70.

If you look into the future a bit — not too far at all — it seems surreal and horrifying but altogether inevitable that the total will reach 3,000 troops killed. There’s no reason to believe it will stop there, but reaching 3,000 seems all too assured.

Now, drop back mentally to the 9/11 attacks. Initially we thought some 5,000 had died — but in one of the only small consolations of that day, that first number turned out to be high.

Best estimates now place the 9/11 dead at 2,986, a hair under 3,000. But most of us carry the round number in our heads, and hearts.

You see where this is headed: soon we will have expended fully as many lives in Iraq as perished in the Pentagon and the Twin Towers.

And if you do the math, something unavoidable suggests itself. At an average of 55-70 casualties in Iraq a month, the November midterm elections mark — with something like precision — the point at which the “9/11 3,000″ and the “Iraq 3,000″ figures will either synchronize or come near enough that it won’t really matter, for purposes of public discussion.

Don’t imagine that you or I are the first to realize this, not by a long shot.

The question then becomes: how will an extremely cold-eyed and cornered White House, working in concert with desperate GOP majorities, spin that numerical reality?

Think John Kerry, war hero. Think night-is-day.

My best guess is that by late summer, right-wing commentators (first Coulter, then Savage, then O’Reilly, then Rush) will begin to suggest that 3,000 dead in Iraq is in fact the only appropriate tribute to the 3,000 dead on 9/11. The synchronized numbers represent the only true measure of seriousness in the War on Terror, they will argue.

We’ve shown the world — the meme will run — that we’re ready and willing to sacrifice as many to preserve Freedom as the terrorists killed on 9/11 to extinguish it.

And soon, the more outspoken of the Administration — Cheney, Rumsfeld, others — will softly echo that line.

And finally, just before the election, Bush will begin marketing a version of the message that says as much without appearing to say nearly so much.

Talk of casualties and strategy is inherently cold-blooded, and I apologize for feeling the need to do so.

But let’s face facts: it was a sense of fair play and good intentions — the feeling human heart of the Democratic Party — that allowed Bush and Cheney and Rove to harness 9/11 like a draft horse in the year following the attacks.

And there’s plenty of hard evidence to suggest that the GOP has systematically exploited both 9/11 and the Iraq War for gain at the polls.

The Downing Street Memo, you’ll remember, spoke not only of the “intelligence being fixed around the policy” but of the number of weeks between the invasion and the Congressional mid-terms. Driving the election was clearly as key to the war plan as removing Sadaam Hussein.

So this “Mirror 3,000″meme is coming. Watch for it. And be prepared to push back. If you see examples of it popping up over the summer, send them in. We’ll post and track them.

For as long as it takes.