- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Iraq war has claimed its 2,000th American service member, reaching a stark milestone not envisioned by the Bush administration when coalition forces invaded the country in March 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein.

Wire-service tallies of U.S. military men and women killed in Iraq reached 2,000 with the death Saturday of an Army soldier, Staff Sgt. George Alexander Jr., 34, in a Texas hospital. He had been wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. The total includes those killed in battle and from other causes, such as accidents.

Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a senior spokesman in Baghdad, sent an e-mail to reporters to try to put the death toll in context.

“I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving Iraq,” Col. Boylan said. “The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives.”

Michael Moore, an anti-war activist and Democratic Party supporter, posted a message on his Web site from protester Cindy Sheehan. Mrs. Sheehan, whose son was killed fighting in Iraq, maintained an anti-war vigil outside President Bush’s Texas ranch this summer and plans more demonstrations at the White House.

“Unfortunately, the 2,000th American death in Iraq is tragically coming up too soon,” she said. “In addition to the wasted young lives in Iraq, 246 of our brave men and women have been killed in Afghanistan. Our troops and the war in Afghanistan get even less attention than Iraq, if possible.”

Though not planned to coincide with the 2,000th-death mark, Mr. Bush delivered a speech on Iraq yesterday, in which he warned of more sacrifices.

“A time of war is a time for sacrifice, and the greatest burden falls on military families,” Mr. Bush told a supportive group of wives of U.S. military officers.

The administration has recast the conflict somewhat, emphasizing that defeating al Qaeda in Iraq enhances U.S. security and delivers a crucial defeat to the enemy that attacked America on September 11.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not acknowledged any major mistakes in planning for the invasion or post-Saddam Iraq. But he also has said he didn’t envision the operation resulting in as many American deaths.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean used the 2,000th death to accuse the president of “failed leadership in Iraq.”

“Today, our nation marks one of the saddest days of the war in Iraq, the loss of the 2,000th American soldier there,” he said. “Each soldier lost on the battlefield leaves behind a family forever marked by tragedy and scarred with grief.”

Col. Boylan urged reporters to focus on other milestones.

“Celebrate the daily milestones, the accomplishments they have secured and look to the future of a free and democratic Iraq and to the day that all of our troops return home to the hero’s welcome they deserve,” he said.

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