VARIOUS: Rising U.S. death toll nears 2,000 mark in Iraq, raising questions over uncertain war
- Title: VARIOUS: Rising U.S. death toll nears 2,000 mark in Iraq, raising questions over uncertain war
- Date: 25th October 2005
- Summary: (BN10) WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (FILE) (REUTERS) SOLDIER PLAYING TAPS THE OFFICIAL ARMY BUGLE CALL
- Reuters ID: LVA2ZV6A6WML04JY0FSWXB7FHAH4
- Duration: 00:00:24
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- Topics: Defence / Military
- Story Text: With a recent surge of violence, the rising U.S. military death toll in Iraq nears 2,000 -- a milestone that has cast a growing unease among Americans with the two and a half -year- war. Among that list of soldiers to have paid the ultimate price is Navy Medic John House, a Los Angeles native, who was killed when the helicopter he and 29 other soldiers were in, went down this past January. A loss that has left his widow wondering why.
"I don't believe there is a reason," said Melanie House. "I don't believe that Iraqis are better off. I don't think we're better off and now I'm a 27-year-old widow who's lost my best friend, my soul mate, the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with and my perfect little son will never get a chance to meet his father who wanted him so bad.
House said both she and her husband were strong supporters of the war early on. But, the longer her husband served in Iraq, the more Melanie said he questioned the U.S. role. It's a role that she now believes is just too high a price to pay, regardless of the claims by the Bush administration to stay the course.
"When I hear him (Bush) say that we are in it for the long haul and we need to stay there and to leave now would make things worse, what I think is how could it get worse," said House.
And it could get worse, as American officials are predicting a continued escalation of insurgent violence, ahead of a planned election for a new government in December.
It is news that leaves Jane and Jim Bright of Los Angeles praying for the 140,000 plus troops still there. Their eldest son died fighting in Mosul in July of 2003.
"I don't think a day goes by that I don't feel ...I don't think I can describe the feeling," explained Jane Bright, on her grief. "An hour doesn't go by that I don't talk to him in my mind. A day doesn't go by that when I'm meditating, that I don't get tears. It never goes away."
The Brights are also quick to defend against charges of being unpatriotic, saying their son died for their right to speak out. Charges that anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has been taking on since her own child's death.
"I believe people that say that are unpatriotic," Sheehan told Reuters, during an anti-war protest in New York city. "Our country was founded on dissent, dissent against immoral leadership. I think it's not only our responsibility to speak out. But, when our government is doing something so reprehensible, then it is mandatory."
Through its many voices, the Bush administration says it understands and mourns the losses, but believes the best way to honour the dead is by completing the mission. Officials of the administration say they're making progress, pointing out the recent referendum and the upcoming elections as evidence of Iraq moving towards democracy. They also believe that a pullout at this time would be a major victory for terrorism.
Still, recent polls show U.S. public support for the war slipping, with increasing comparisons being drawn to the U.S. war in Vietnam. And with the support for the war slipping, so have the President's approval ratings precipitously dropped.
"The expectation is that going in, this was not going to be 30 months later having casualties at this level in Iraq. The second one is that people are willing to pay the price, if they see we're moving towards a peaceful resolution in Iraq," says Michael Keane, a lecturer in political science at the University of Southern California (USC).
The reality though is that the Pentagon is expecting more, not less violence ahead, and any talks of a troop reduction in Iraq have been shelved. Leading some to question the wisdom and the real life and death costs of a war that right now remains uncertain.
"It's obviously a hard concept to grasp. I think something needed to be done, but I think this is the wrong way to do it," Tyler Menzell of Los Angeles said.
"I have a son that is in special operation forces and he will be redeployed in December, unfortunately. My feeling is that they shouldn't be there," German Gjudil said.
"I don't support anything about it except the troops. I feel sorry for them," Barbara Gilmore said.
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