Is Thirty A Magic Number?

Schoolhouse Rock - Three is a Magic Number

Okay, maybe not three, but would you believe that when it comes to Afghanistan, 30 is the magic number? As Moon of Alabama notes, each time a battle in Afghanistan is described, the losses are always around 30. Megan Carpentier of Air America suggests that it may be that the Pentagon's cold calculus is that 30 civilian deaths is the maximum we Americans will tolerate without questioning the wisdom of the battles:

In other words, the Pentagon determined that 30 casualties, even if they were civilian, were too few to matter politically or to attract the attention of the press for more than a few words. If commanders expected more civilian casualties than that, political leaders had to sign off on the attack in advance to make sure they were prepared for the PR fall-out.

That PR calculus of how many deaths matter to the average American has apparently carried over from the Bush Administration to the Obama Adminstration, at least insofar as ground commanders are concerned. But the American people deserve the truth about how many Afghans--civilian and otherwise--are being killed by our forces. Just because senior officials at the Pentagon think that killing 30 people doesn't warrant their attention doesn't mean they're right.

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