Unnoticed casualties

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(HOST) American soldiers continue to die in Iraq. And commentator Bill Seamans thinks that the American public should not be distracted by other matters.

(SEAMANS) A week ago last Monday, on April 3rd, the Pentagon announced that eight Marines and a Navy medical corpsman were killed in Iraq. It was the largest single day toll in months – and hardly anybody noticed. You had to look for that news buried in the newspapers, and on radio and TV I heard it mentioned only as a brief one-liner, if at all. As I thought about the lack of coverage for such a tragic event I could not help but reflect on what did catch the public’s attention on that particular day – so I went back and checked the news budget.

On that Monday the country was mad about March Madness and “what teams do you have in the pool?” But the casualty toll was hardly mentioned at all. On that Monday another sports story was in the headlines as several Duke University lacrosse team players stood accused of raping an exotic dancer they had hired for a party. Meanwhile, eight Marines and one Navy corpsman, who won’t ever go to college, were killed and hardly anybody noticed.

On that Monday the nation was enthralled by whether Katie Couric had decided to take that fifteen million dollar a year anchorwom-
an job at CBS. Meanwhile, eight Marines and a Navy corpsman, who will never again see TV, were killed in Iraq and hardly anybody noticed.

On that Monday our congresspersons were engaged in their own bitter political war over immigration and hardly anybody noticed that eight Marines and a Navy corpsman, all American citizens, had been killed in Iraq.

On that Monday, the news media were full of “it’s the end of an era” stories about the political fate of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay and hardly anybody noticed our Iraq casualty toll announced that day.

On that Monday, the baseball world was buzzing with the advent of a new season and calls for a Congressional investigation of the steroid scandal. But demands for hearings on the chaos of the Iraq war were rejected even as nine more servicemen died in Iraq and hardly anybody noticed.

That was what happened on just one particular day – and when the week ended thirteen more servicepersons were added to the death toll – twenty-two for the week – and hardly anybody noticed except their grieving families and friends.

The moral of this story is how the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Troika has succeeded in pushing the Iraq War so far into the news background that the public now hardly notices the daily casualty toll.

It would seem that when the people we sent to Washington come around to grip and grin during their current spring break, it would be timely to lay some tough face-to-face words on them about how we feel about what’s happening in Iraq. Critics say they should stop spending so much time on less important legislative diversions and raise the level of the Iraq debate back up to where it should be in the public’s consciousness – so that we will not again have to say “and hardly anybody noticed.”

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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