Anyone remember the last two weeks of October, when television and print reporters couldn’t stop talking about the number of American soldiers and Marines who were dying in near-record numbers in Iraq? And remember how practically every story about the upcoming midterm elections included the ever-increasing death toll as it inched closer to the 100 mark?
Well, seen any of those stories since October 31?
We’re not saying that the press has begun to totally ignore the toll the war is taking in American lives, (October saw 105 Americans die in Iraq), but it seems that once the morbid race to October 31 ended on Tuesday, most election stories — which reprinted the October death rate time and again as if it were some macabre poll number — began to forget that troops were still dying in favor of jumping on the truly pathetic “John Kerry thinks the troops are dumb” story.
That’s not to say all have switched gears as the artificial deadline of October’s end came and went. The New York Times’ Thom Shanker and David S. Cloud put the numbers in perspective on Wednesday, and the Los Angeles Times has recently run two excellent pieces looking at the casualties in Iraq, both in terms of the families stateside, and the distribution of violence in Iraq. The first, by Borzou Daragahi in Baghdad, traced the kind of attacks that are aimed at U.S. service members, and where they are occurring. Just as importantly, Daragahi notes an oft-forgotten bit of information: that 224 Iraqi security forces and 1,315 civilians were killed in October.
The other story, by Ellen Barry, David Zucchino and P.J. Huffstutter, focused on a few of the individual warriors who fell in Iraq in October, taking a brief look at who they were and where they came from.
It’s not much, necessarily, but given the simple number-crunching and ticking-off of statistics we see so often with casualty reports, a little background, and a little history, go a long way toward humanizing a conflict that, for many Americans, never gets much closer than their television screens.