November 11th, 2008

The last soldier of the British Army to die in combat was Rifleman Yubraj Rai of the Gurkhas, from Khotang province in Nepal. who was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday 4 November. Here’s a screenshot of his page on the website of the British Ministry of Defence:

Ministry of Defence - Defence News - Military Operations - Rifleman Yubraj Rai killed in Afghanistan_1226432331100.jpeg

.. and it goes on.

The boilerplate sympathy from a government minister is accompanied by more meaningful testimonials from his commanding officer and comrades, and a mention of the family of four in Nepal he was supporting.

Every single British casualty in Afghanistan, and before that in Iraq, gets the same treatment.

Rifleman Rai’s American counterpart is Staff Sergeant Timothy H. Walker, from Franklin, Tennessee, of the 4th Infantry Division, who died on November 8 in Baghdad. But to find a public record of his death, forget about the US Department of Defense. You have to go to an antiwar site. Good for them for taking on this duty, but why should it be necessary?

The Bush Administration’s shameful policy of brushing American casualties, let alone foreign civilian ones, under the carpet is easily reversed: a downpayment on more difficult wider changes. Here’s a proposal for President Obama. Go in person to the airfield where the first American casualties of his term are repatriated, and order that in future the bodies of American fighting men and women will always be greeted home with proper respect by civilian and military officials of high rank.

And give the dead their six feet of cyberspace.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission runs a spare but dignified cybermemorial for 1,700,000 war dead from Britain and its former empire, including Ireland. There are no records of Kleimans, Kulicks, Sabls, Zasloffs, and Zegarts, but 2 Wimberleys, 3 Pollacks, 95 O’Hares and 2633 Adamses.



If Rahm Emanuel considers this, it would not escape him that a disproportionate number of US soldiers and therefore casualties are poor Southern and Appalachian white men, a group that voted largely for John McCain. Good policy is here good politics.

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