U.S. toll is 3,000 in Iraq--but lower than in past wars

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... Americans may question this war for many reasons, but their doubts often find voice in the count of U.S. war deaths. An overwhelming majority — 84 percent — worry that the war is causing too many casualties, according to a September poll by the nonpartisan research group Public Agenda.

The country largely kept the faith during World War II, even as about 400,000 U.S. forces died — 20,000 just in the monthlong Battle of the Bulge. Before turning against the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Americans tolerated thousands more deaths than in Iraq.

Has something changed? Do Americans somehow place higher value on the lives of their soldiers now? Do they expect success at lower cost? Or do most simply dismiss this particular war as the wrong one — hard to understand and harder to win — and so not worth the losses?

The Associated Press recently posed these questions to scholars, veterans, activists, and other Americans. Their comments suggest that the public does express more pain over the deaths of this war.

A death toll of 3,000 simply sounds higher to Americans in this war than it did in other prolonged conflicts of the past century, for a number of reasons, the interviews suggest.

"As fewer Americans die in war, their loss is more keenly felt, not necessarily at a personal level, but at a collective and public level," says historian Michael Allen at North Carolina State University.

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Maurice Isserman - 1/3/2007

The US death toll in the Vietnam war reached the 3,000 mark in March 1966, five years into the war. Anti-war dissent had been visible and growing for at least a year when that threshold was crossed, beginning with the teach-ins of the spring of 1965,and the first major march against the war in Washington in April 1965 (at which point American deaths in the war were still in the low hundreds.)