(Occasional sobering thoughts.) It comes as scant surprise to read media analyses that attribute the Middle East talks opening today in Annapolis, Maryland -- notwithstanding officials' protestations to the contrary -- as the Bush Administration's "11th-hour effort to forge a legacy other than the one left by the Iraq war." (Said to be especially "determined to fashion a legacy in the Middle East that extends beyond the war in Iraq" is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.)
Bad news for the administration are governmental changes in Poland and Australia, where new leaders have pledged to withdraw their troops from what once was called the coalition of the willing in Iraq.
Seemingly good news -- of a "plunge" in deaths of Iraqi civilians -- is tempered by analysis of the likely reason for the switch: not only "tactical successes" from the "U.S. troop buildup," known popularly as "the surge," but also "the lasting impact of waves of sectarian death squad killings, car bombings and neighborhood purges." In other words, past killings've shrunk the number of potential civilian victims.
Meanwhile, another surge has been noted; that is an increase in the number of homeless veterans, some veterans of this Iraq war, now living on U.S. streets. Not seen here, though, are many Iraqi refugees, as the United States continues to admit far fewer refugees than promised.
Little good news from Afghanistan, where 2007 already has become the "deadliest" year for U.S. troops, and where U.S. officials can cite little more than "limited progress" since the onset of a counterassault in 2001.
With those sobering thoughts in mind, here's the casualty count this last month: according to Iraq Body Count, between 77,333 and 84,250 Iraqi women, children, and men had died in the conflict -- an increase of 1,735 to 1,881 deaths in the last 4 weeks. By the U.S. Defense Department's figures, meanwhile, 3,876 American servicemembers have been killed through yesterday. Total coalition fatalities: 4,182 persons. (That's 42 servicemember deaths in 4 weeks, all but 3 of them Americans.) The Department stated that 28,431 servicemembers have been wounded, and that 8,580 of them required medical air transport. (We've always been dubious of these wounded figures, and recent news that Pentagon figures exclude 20,000 brain injuries suffered by servicemembers adds to that concern.)