The Milestone

What follows is an excerpt from a CNN news program hosted by Rick Sanchez on March 23, the day on which it was announced that four thousand American soldiers had been killed in Iraq. Mr. Sanchez talked to Michael Ware, Baghdad correspondent for CNN, and Martha Zoller, host of The Martha Zoller Show.

Rick Sanchez: …We’ve got Michael Ware now. He’s standing by in Baghdad, ready to file this report as we get word of this milestone being reached.

Michael, perhaps you can share, since you’ve been there so long and you’ve been one of the few reporters who’ve really been on the inside of this from the very beginning. Is this [four thousand US soldiers killed] more than just a number and, if so, why?

Michael Ware, CNN correspondent: Well, Rick, I think it’s undeniable that when the US military struck this harrowing mark of four thousand deaths, that does not go without some kind of symbolism. It comes just days after this war’s fifth anniversary. When these four soldiers were killed, we’re talking about perhaps only eight hours ago, here in the southern part of the capital Baghdad, that really does say something.

You cannot help but take a moment to pause and to reflect. I’m sure soldiers and commanders throughout the nation will be taking that moment as well. Four thousand American deaths now in this war that continues to grind away where there seems to be so little insight that suggests it’s coming to an end at any time soon.

That, perhaps, is the darkest reflection of all. Four thousand deaths and very little so far has changed. We’re seeing success from the military’s surge here in Baghdad, where they flooded the capital with 30,000 extra combat troops; where they’ve cut deals with their former enemies among the Sunni insurgents; where anti-American rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is now finding political accommodation from the US military following the cleric’s declaration of a cease-fire.

So while there are gains that have been made, there’s still nothing to say that anything is getting any better in a real sense; that the fundamental building blocks of this war have been changed. And to now have the four thousand American deaths really is a chilling moment.

Sanchez: Let me ask you, Michael. Michael, I just want to interrupt you for a moment, because since we’re talking of numbers, I want to ask you about something that rarely is talked about on network television in the United States. And that is, the four thousand Americans is serious enough. But is it your understanding that the number of dead Iraqis would, what, double, triple…? What is that number? Do you know it?

Ware: Well, Rick, no one can give you a figure of the number of Iraqi souls that have been lost in the five years so far of this conflict. But it’s exponentially greater than two or three or even ten times this terrible number of American casualties. We’re talking about—on conservative estimates between 80,000 to 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives.

And that’s not to mention more than four million Iraqis are displaced from their homes. Two million are lost here in Iraq wanting to return home. Two million more plus are beyond this country’s border and there seems little hope that any of…

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