As if fueled by some cosmic irony to enhance sales of Dick Cheney’s In My Time, we have welcome news from the Near East! For the first time since the former Veep’s “Coalition of the Willing” sand-plowed Saddam’s twisted regime in 2003, an entire month has passed without a single United States service member dying. In all seriousness, thank God, because such welcome news is long overdue.
That some roughly 48,000 troops in Iraq avoided the ultimate sacrifice stands as fragile, yet memorable milestone of America’s time in Iraq. According to the Defense Department, 4,465 American soldiers have died here since the United States invasion. Yet security gains are weighted on frightfully narrow pivot. Just last month, 14 troops were killed, making it the most deadly month for America since 2008. Let’s not forget that this success comes amid a startling campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations that have killed hundreds of Iraqis, echoing violence witnessed at the height of sectarian strife in 2004 and 2005. A series of coordinated attacks killed some 60 people on the 15th of August. Three days ago, a suicide bomber, disguised as a beggar, detonated himself within Baghdad’s largest Sunni mosque, killing 32 worshippers.
U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Crissman, who heads up American forces around the Basra area in southern Iraq, told the New York Times:
“If you had thought about a month without a death backing during the surge in 2007, it would have been pretty hard to imagine because we were losing soldiers every day…dozens a week.
Col. Crissman knows better than anyone how much this past month means to America’s Mesopotamian morale. He and his troops have been on the front lines of an Iraqi crackdown on Iranian-backed Shi’a militias in the south. The campaign was the product of America’s withering diplomatic strong-arm and some good, old-fashioned unilateral air-power. As the
Colonel noted in his interview with the Times, “…we did targeting on our own and some hand-holding of the Iraqis.”
In the eleventh hour of America’s mission in Iraq, is it too much to hope for an even safer September? Sadly, that 31 days could pass without a death in Iraq — hostile or otherwise — isn’t a front-page, top-fold story and it hasn’t been for years. For all the talk of America’s “war-weariness,” we’ve essentially monetized our fatigue. Arguments against the war have been refined to talking points in the budget battle. Valid as these may be, such logic ignores the human inventory. Moments such these should offer the rare opportunity to reflect upon the blood that’s been spilled by the brave men and women who fight our wars, rather than simply bemoaning the treasure that’s been lost.
Here’s hoping August wasn’t a statistical blip. I’d like nothing more than to see this trend continue.