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3,500 Soldiers Dead in Iraq

As the number of American troop fatalities in Iraq passes the 3,500 mark, we must take heed of the toll the war is taking on our armed forces.

Despite the immense set of problems the Iraq war has posed to America and the world, no greater tragedy has resulted from it than the horrifying loss of life. The military announced yesterday that over 3,500 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. American men and women in uniform perform their duty with the utmost dedication, and the least we could do as a citizenry is honor their sacrifice.

One would think such a major milestone would elicit significant attention from news sources, but this did not. Instead, the media chose to focus on the 2008 presidential campaign, the G8 summit, immigration reform, and Paris Hilton’s prison sentence.

These are important topics (okay, perhaps not Hilton), but the failure of the media to adequately report the mounting death toll of American troops underscores a larger reality about the public debate over Iraq.

The American public has not lost focus on Iraq. Polls consistently show 65 percent to 70 percent of the population opposes the president’s policies. It is clear that disapproval is widespread. As a result, the news agenda has shifted to other topics where public opinion has not formed a strong consensus, relegating the fate of American troops to the back page. Regardless of the reason for the lack of public exposure, though, there is little question that this milestone explicitly reveals the problems with keeping our troops in danger.

These errors include the inability of Iraq’s government to sustain and construct meaningful coalitions, the inability of Congress to influence the president’s blind strategy of failed persistence, and the inability of the media to construct an honest public debate about the future of our involvement in Iraq. The consequences become more and more evident each day, both here and in Iraq. An example is the recent news from Fort Lewis, WA that individual funerals for fallen soldiers are being replaced with monthly ceremonies.

Another is the announcement by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) following the tornado in Greensburg, KS that the National Guard is not prepared to handle another natural disaster due to resources being diverted to Iraq. Clearly these failures are beginning to take their toll.

The CAP report “Beyond the Call of Duty” focuses on the readiness of combat troops in three specific areas: personnel, training, and equipment. It plainly shows that the president’s policies demand more from our combat troops than they are humanly capable of providing. What the American public knows by gut instinct, this report proves in detail: that the war in Iraq is unsustainable under the current conditions.

Caught Off Guard,” another recently released CAP report, details policy measures that would begin to restore the ability of the National Guard to cope with domestic tragedies. These measures include fully funding the reset of National Guard and Reserve equipment, increasing the size of the active Army and Marines, and limiting the president’s ability to mobilize Guard units without congressional approval. Just as our troops abroad are jeopardized by ill-conceived policies, our citizens at home our jeopardized by inadequate preparation.

Many soldiers are returning to Iraq for their third or even fourth tours of duty. Meanwhile, the open-ended commitment in Iraq continues unchecked, with more soldiers dying each day. We must change course.

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