On Sunday night, the 4,000th person died for a mistake.
Four American soldiers were killed near Baghdad when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Yet, five years after President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq, this milestone elicits neither shock nor awe: Only 28 percent of Americans recently surveyed knew the number of servicemembers killed in the war, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war in Iraq isn't worth the loss of American lives, yet it's hard to imagine what it would take to convince the remaining 33 percent that this is one of the greatest tragedies in modern history: Thousands more dead and wounded Americans? Thousands more dead and suffering Iraqi civilians? Continued torture of prisoners by the U.S. military and its contractors? An additional trillion or so to the war's estimated $3 trillion price tag?
Anniversaries provide us occasions for reflection, but the war rages on every minute of every day. Its after-effects—a lost and scarred generation—will linger with us long after the war the ends, whether it's two years or 100, like John McCain predicts. But even one more day is too long, especially for the four soldiers who died Sunday and the 3,996 before them.