As a campaign issue, the Iraq war has been displaced by the economic damage done by irresponsible home-loan practices and ephemeral distractions like the oratorical excesses of Barack Obama’s pastor. Indeed, the war seems somewhere back on the shelf with immigration.
A grim landmark of that war should serve to refocus attention on what is arguably the nation’s most pressing issue. On Sunday, the deaths of four soldiers brought the U.S. death toll to the 4,000 mark, 97 percent of them since President Bush declared Mission Accomplished and major combat over, a boast that was as wrong as it was vainglorious.
The four were killed by a roadside bomb — the improvised explosive device, or IED, that has become the signature weapon of this war and has accounted for 44 percent of U.S. deaths in 2007 and 56 percent so far this year, according to the Associated Press.
The profile of those who died is sadly predictable: Most were Army, 72 percent, and Marines, 24 percent; most, 83 percent, were active duty, meaning they were volunteer professionals; most were young men, but 83 of them were over age 45 and 98 of them were women. One-third of them came from the American South.
If our own death toll is grim enough, another is even grimmer. The Sunday that saw us reach 4,000 also saw the deaths of 61 Iraqis. A tally cited by the AP puts the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at somewhere between 82,349 and 89,867.
On March 20 the war entered its sixth year. The war is not going away because the politicians have found other, more rewarding issues.