"To tell you the truth, I'd rather be in Iraq."
The words come from someone who knows of what he speaks. National Guard Sgt. Jason Defess, 27, spent 14 months deployed in Iraq. Now that he's assigned to help handle security at the New Orleans Superdome, he tells the Washington Post that his former outpost is looking pretty good by comparison. "You got your constant danger, but I had something to protect myself. Three meals a day. Communications. A plan. Here, they had no plan."
You hope it's hyperbole, but reading the Post's deeply disturbing account of life inside the Superdome -- or just about anything about the chaos that has descended on New Orleans, really -- you get the sense that maybe it isn't. For this moment, at least, the people of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf states are brothers and sisters in misery with the people of war-torn Iraq. The mayor of New Orleans says thousands may be dead in his city. Nearly 1,000 Iraqis died this week in a stampede in Baghdad that started amid rumors that a suicide bomber was about to attack.
For members of the U.S. military, however, there's still really no comparison. Eighty-three American soldiers died in Iraq in August, the fourth highest monthly death toll in the war and the worst since this January. All told, 1,882 Americans have lost their lives in the war. As far as we know, there haven't been any deaths yet among members of the military deployed for Katrina. But as the situation in New Orleans grows ever more dire, that could change. As the Associated Press reports, rescue workers suspended efforts to evacuate the Superdome this morning after shots were fired at a military helicopter.