BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The death of a Texas soldier, announced Sunday by the Pentagon, raised the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to at least 3,000 since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.Not to diminish anything, but some might say this is a pittance.
The grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.
But can war provide similar meaning to a number? What can now be derived from reaching the grim milestone of 3,000 American dead in Iraq? The public's contemplation of the number should have little to do with the right or the wrong of American occupation, nor with the viability of that seed of peace America is meant to be sowing there. Wars are always paid in blood and numbered in lives lost, the value of that sacrifice doesn't rise or fall like penny stock depending on the popularity of a mission. The 3,000th death is as the first — dying being the pitiable but inextricable consequence of war.
That sort of piety is, naturally, lost on both sides, for whom the zeroes in a round number like 3,000 are instead perfect little mirrors to reflect their own hot opinions of the war in Iraq. Anti-war activists loudly mourn the senseless loss of life. Passing 3,000 is a prime opportunity to plumb the depths of their own angers about how the war was planned, sold, and executed. Hawks mourn the fact that America has lost its grit. After all, they point out, 3,000 dead is still less than half the annual toll in the worst years of Vietnam. And amid either World War I or II, an America with a far smaller population suffered larger losses on some afternoons in the Pacific or in Europe than today's America has suffered in three-and-a-half years in Iraq.
President Bush reacts.
Apparently it's also been a rough year for reporters.