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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reflecting on the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War

From my Northern Star column, which runs today:

This week ushers in the 5th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. While war markers rarely bring a smile to the face as other anniversaries do, and while numbers are cold and sterile and harbor nothing of the humanity or gravity of such losses, they serve a useful purpose.

They ask that we observe, if only briefly, the sacrifices made for us half a world away.

Quick: Do you know how many troops have deployed, become injured, or even died so far? If you said 1.6 million (this first figure includes Afghanistan) have deployed you’d be on target. Toss in nearly 30,000 injured and nearly 4,000 killed in action in Iraq alone, and you’re totally engaged.

You’re lonely, too.

According to a Pew Research News IQ survey released last week, only 28 percent of us currently know how many U.S. troops have died in Iraq. This figure is down from 54 percent in August 2007. The indifference or even boredom reflects what’s going on in the media, too. War coverage made up only 3 percent of last month’s overall “newshole,” down from July 2007’s more generous 15 percent slice of the news pie.

IAVA is asking us to join together in signing an open letter to the media asking that they increase coverage of the Iraq war. They've made it easy for us to send via this handy online form.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Text of IAVA's media petition letter:

Dear ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN,

In February, your network devoted an average of 3% of the coverage to the war in Iraq. Because of that appallingly low number, fewer people than ever before know how many American soldiers have died in Iraq, while a majority of the public knows Oprah Winfrey endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president.

Our troops are still serving in hazardous conditions and encountering daily violence. We owe it to those who have served in the past five years and those who are still serving to keep the Iraq war and veterans' issues in the public eye.

Make sure the Iraq war is getting the coverage it deserves.

Thank you.

Another graf or two from my column:

The latest numbers offer one glimpse at the experience of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

During the World War II era, about 12 percent of the U.S. population fought in the war. Today, only half a percent of us are
serving overseas. Over 500,000 have been deployed twice or more.

Nearly 37 percent (299,585) of our returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have received one form of medical treatment or another from their local Veterans Administration. About 40 percent of those patients (120,049) have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, 23 percent (67,717) with post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies show PTSD risk increases with multiple deployments.

Meanwhile, 663,000 veterans of all wars are waiting for their disability claims to be processed, the highest backlog on record. Hearing damage is the number one disability for today’s vets, with nearly 70,000 suffering from ringing in the ears and another 58,000 from hearing loss.

Read the rest. More stats can be found in The War List that I've been compiling since last year. I'll be updating it as best I can throughout the week.

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