Cross-posted at Daily Kos
The war in Iraq seems to have dropped off the national radar, replaced by the economy, the horserace, and the ominpresent celebrity scandal. It seems that–since violence is down in Iraq–the traditional media has decided that the war is no longer worth covering.
Well, if current trends continue, Iraq may end up on the front page again pretty soon:
“There are growing signs of backsliding in Iraq,” writes Spencer Ackerman today. According to “Iraq security statistics over the past 13 weeks,” roadside bomb explosions in Baghdad “have ticked up slightly to 131 in January from 129 in December — and the last week of January is not included in these latest figures.” Additionally, “the week ending on January 25 saw seven suicide explosions Iraq-wide, the most since the week ending Dec. 21, 2007.”
While American casualties are occurring at half the rate they were a year ago, they’ve started to go up: there were 24 casualties in December and 37 in January. Not only that, but if history is any indication, it’s more than likely that violence will increase in the spring–last year, American casualties climbed throughout the spring, peaking in May at 131, making that the deadliest month in Iraq since 2004. It’s clear that, while casualties might not climb that high this year, they’re already climbing.
Despite the modest gains we’ve made in Iraq, poll after polls shows that the war is as unpopular as ever–the most recent survey from Polling Report shows approval for the war at it’s lowest ever–32%–while disapproval is at it’s highest–59%.
Why is approval so low? Well, two reasons–first, the surge hasn’t succeeded, and second, Iraq is still a failed state. Remember, the goal of the surge was to give the Iraqi government enough room to come to a political solution. Right now, there is no political solution, nor is there one on the horizon–Iraq’s government is as divided as ever. Meanwhile, violence–both against Americans and Iraqis–remains extremely high; it’s not as high as it was, but it’s still up there. Iraq’s government, infrastructure and economy are all in shambles, and will require untold years to rebuild back to prewar levels.
So while Republicans like John McCain may be doing a victory dance over the surge, American soldiers are still dying at a rate of one a day. They pretend that Iraq’s problems are solved or that the war is over, forgetting–or ignoring–the 130,000 soldiers who will remain in Iraq until the end of the Bush Presidency.
There’s a war going on, but you wouldn’t know that by reading the news–the media’s silence on Iraq is deafening. For hundreds of American soldiers, that silence will be the last thing they ever hear.
UPDATE: With forgotten wars come forgotten soldiers:
Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006.
At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan. […]
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe stress on the Army, caused in part by repeated and lengthened deployments. Historically, suicide rates tend to decrease when soldiers are in conflicts overseas, but that trend has reversed in recent years. From a suicide rate of 9.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 — the lowest rate on record — the Army reached an all-time high of 17.5 suicides per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2006.