Having passed the 4,000 Americans killed mark in Iraq, the media will once again focus on the war in Iraq, like days ago when we passed the five-year mark there. These kinds of milestones and the inevitable media infatuation with them make me somewhat queasy. It's as if the 4000th person killed there was more important than the 3,999th, or the 4,001st. To me, and I would say to most Americans, every American killed in Iraq, everyday, is of equal importance.
If anything, the 4000th death (and all the rest) does serve as a reminder to the cost of ineptitude and when compared to the early statements and rhetoric leading up to the war, and serves as a harsh reminder of the truth. No WMD. No link to 9/11 or al Qaeda. No threat of "mushroom clouds" over American cities if we did not invade Iraq, while a certain increased risk now because we've allowed al Qaeda to rebuild from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A more important fact is that, as Brandon Friedman writes at VetVoice.com, "American forces have just experienced the most violent two-week period in Iraq since September 2007... Between March 10 and March 23, 25 American soldiers were killed in Iraq. The last two-week period in which U.S. forces sustained similar losses was between September 14 and September 27, when 26 were killed--a period that capped off the bloodiest summer of the war." It is just one more reminder that the rate of those killed in Iraq will go up and down, which is hardly a sign of significant progress.
On another note is that this happened on March 23. To me that is such a striking date because I was in the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) in Heidelberg, Germany and we were preparing to deploy. This was one of the first days of the war five years ago, when we realized we troops were really at war. Ten Marines had been killed, and a logistics convoy (Jessica Lynch's convoy) had disappeared in Nasriyah. The photos and videos were on TV, and our Colonel in the TOC stood up and said, "This is a harsh reminder that America is at war, and for some of you it's the first time."
Five years later, what does the 4000-death mark mean to me? It means that today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we will lose some of the finest Americans we have. That is a harsh reminder that disastrous policy decisions have tragic consequences. That is, as my Colonel said, a harsh reminder of war.