Since the U.S. invasion in 2003, at least 1,546 troops have died in Iraq, including at least 1,176 who died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.

Those numbers have dropped precipitously since national elections at the end of January, but deaths are still being reported at an average of about one a day.

The Iraqi election brought the nation’s Shiites and Kurds out in droves, but the minority Sunni population mainly stayed home, heightening sectarian tensions. The Sunni heartland provinces in the center of the nation - such as Anbar, Baghdad, Ninawa and Diyala - continue to be insurgency hotbeds.

As the number of Americans killed has dropped, violence targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians has increased. Militias roam neighborhoods, exacting justice with the barrel of an AK-47, often along sectarian lines. ~The Philadelphia Inquirer (courtesy of Military.com)

The slowing of the American death toll, with Iraqi civilians now receiving more of the attention of insurgents, has brought it back to its mid-2003 levels. At that time, losing a soldier a day had become a steady drain on public support for the war and the costs of this apparently interminable mission seemed to be mounting to no purpose. It is only by comparison with the more calamitous events of 2004 that things seem to have become relatively peaceful and improved.

For those of us, such as myself, for whom even one American death for Iraqi “liberation” was too high a price, it is scarce consolation that we have returned to losing one American a day. Every day we are paying an unacceptable price, and it will not become more acceptable even if all the President’s pie-in-the-sky fantasies for Iraq come true. American soldiers do not become soldiers and daily risk their lives so that Arabs, or anyone else, except perhaps other Americans, can vote and establish their own broken-down welfare state. Americans ought to demand a return of their soldiers for the end of this year, if not sooner.

We have wasted enough lives, resources, reputation and goodwill on a country that has properly literally nothing to do with us, our people or our security. No people has ever resented its occupiers for leaving, so we should cease pretending that our departure will be a ‘betrayal’ or anything other than the good common sense that it is. If our prestige and reputation take further damage from such a withdrawal, that is a better price to pay than gradually damaging and wrecking our armed forces to no purpose. And let us affix the blame for any loss of face squarely where it belongs: with the same people who ruined our national reputation by starting the war. We would not be in this position but for these dishonourable men, and we and our soldiers should not be held hostage to their mistake any longer.

It was slightly earlier than this time last year that the stand-off with Fallujah began and the Sadrist rebellion broke out, so if things are presently quiet one might assume, not knowing any better, that the problems of Fallujah and Sadr have been “solved” in some way. Instead, Sunni alienation and hostility seethes as much as ever, and Sadr has taken to the less immediately threatening but politically much more potent method of encouraging, for the moment, protest rather than violence. In short, for all the sacrifices made by hundreds of American soldiers in the last year, the same two fundamental problems that were flaring up last year remain. They have become quiescent or are not presently in conflict with American forces, but it is difficult to see what, if anything, has really been changed that justifies the loss of American lives.

There is now an Iraqi government, and from the rather self-absorbed American hegemonist perspective a slower American death rate proves the elections have been a “success” (i.e., they have made the hegemonists’ lives easier and deflected the mounting criticism), but it seems clear enough that overall security has not improved much at all as the worst bomb attack in post-war Iraq, which occurred after the elections, and the latest attack (link above) remind us. If our continued presence remains pointlessly linked to the quality of the security situation in Iraq, this shows that there has been scant progress in securing Iraq and thus no progress towards ending the mission in Iraq.