BODY COUNT. I realized as I was reading Spencer's recordings of each soldier's death release that the DOD has, perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, made the fatalities boring. The press releases are a dull monotone -- a template into which soldiers' names, hometowns, and circumstances of death are inserted (with a note that they died "supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom").

Keeping an accurate record of the body count seems important. The death of every American soldier is noted with a press release and a military funeral, but obviously no such release occurs when civilians die in Iraq. And even when they are reported, Iraqis are just numbers to many Americans. Which is why this first-hand account (via Juan Cole) of civilian deaths is so jarring, and harrowing. The people that die are friends and colleagues of the writer. It's personal.

--Kay Steiger

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