Associated Press figures show a sharp drop in the number of U.S. and Iraqi deaths across the country in the past few months. The number of Iraqis who met violent deaths dropped from at least 1,023 in September to at least 905 in October, according to an AP count.
The number of American military deaths fell from 65 to at least 39 over the same period.Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces south of the capital, said Sunday he believed the decrease would hold, because of what he called a "groundswell" of support from regular Iraqis.
"If we didn't have so many people coming forward to help, I'd think this is a flash in the pan. But that's just not the case," Lynch told a small group of reporters over lunch in the Green Zone.
He attributed the sharp drop in attacks to the American troop buildup, the setup of small outposts at the heart of Iraqi communities, and help from thousands of locals fed up with al-Qaida and other extremists.
Well, there it is. If it reflects reality rather than wishful thinking, which I hope is the case--the reality bit, not the wishful thinking--then it's great, great news (although I'm not sure I'd characterize the drop in Iraqi deaths from 1,023 to 905 as "sharp," and that's still a big damn number to wrap up as good news). If the shine is starting to wear off some, you know, of the endless cycle of bombings and murders, and that means we can bring the guys home sooner, fabulous. I'm all over it. Let the good news keep rolling in so we can get the hell out of there.
And let's support the troops while we're at it. Of course, since I am a hopeless liberal, after all, by "support the troops" I mean "fulfill their immediate and long-term physical and mental health needs resulting from military service, in a timely fashion, with the best level of care, rather than seeing how many hoops they can jump through while seeking treatment before denying healthcare benefits on whatever pretext can be located or fabricated." John Edwards, who has similar notions, has proposed a modest $400 million plan for treating veterans afflicted with PTSD--in other words, a price tag coming in at less than half the cost of a month's worth of war--and, even if he wins neither the nomination nor the presidency, maybe it's an idea with legs enough to be picked up by a Senate sponsor at some point.
"I strongly believe we must restore the sacred contract we have with our veterans and their families, and that we must begin by reforming our system for treating PTSD. We also must act to remove the stigma from this disorder," Edwards said in prepared remarks his campaign provided to The Associated Press. "Warriors should never be ashamed to deal with the personal consequences of war."Edwards said that despite his opposition to how the war has been waged, the enlisted men and women deserve the nation's support when they complete their service."We must stand by those who stand by us. When our service men and women sacrifice so much to defend our freedom and secure peace around the world, we have a moral obligation to take care of them and their families," he said.
To reiterate, standing by them means much, much more than slapping a ribbon on the car and cheering as more and more men and women get shipped over to the grinder. Most Americans' fondest hope is that they start coming home quickly (von dein Mund zu Gotts Oiren, Rick Lynch), and when they do they are going to need a hell of a lot more help than the Army is currently giving. If that little problem is another one Bush is happy to leave to the next administration, let John Edwards' ideas be in the forefront of addressing it.