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You would think, after listening to all the news coverage of the primary elections that there isn’t a war going on. There are actually two separate wars going on, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, and American lives are being lost in both of them.

Coverage of the election has focused on the beginning of the war, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) questioning Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) judgment for voting to approve George Bush’s foray into Iraq, and Clinton firing back that Obama, with only three years on the national scene, is not prepared to be a wartime president.

But, while they are so busy running against each other, they give short shrift to the 3,973 (as of today) American combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not just an academic exercise or a foreign policy conundrum that can be addressed in a 30-second sound bite or 60-second television commercial.

These are lives of real American servicemen, and no one, not Obama, or Clinton, or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Bush, even mentions them anymore, as if it weren’t happening at all. They don’t mention Private Dewayne L. White, from south suburban Country Club Hills, who was one of three soldiers killed Dec. 4 when their vehicle encountered a roadside bomb in Bayi, Iraq.

They don’t mention Spec. Michael B. Matlock Jr., 21, of Glen Burnie, Md., one of three soldiers killed when their vehicle encountered a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq, on Feb. 20. They don’t note that 369 of those killed in Iraq have been Black or that 421 of those killed are Hispanic. They haven’t yet mentioned any of the estimated 29,275 U.S. servicemen and women who have been wounded in the war, who come home with tangible reminders of Bush’s folly.

And there is no mention at all of the estimated one million Iraqis who have died. Instead, they seem to have been overcome by the “surge,” and are now genuflecting to General David Petraeus, buying into Bush’s claim that the surge is working. If, by “working” they mean that fewer U.S. soldiers are dying, that is true. One would hope that putting more manpower to the task would reduce the number of military deaths.

It has not, however, made as much difference in the political fortunes of Iraq. The Sunnis and Shiites are still at odds, and the Kurds to the north are still holding on to that area, raising the very real possibility that there will be three separate Iraq’s for the foreseeable future, and three Iraqs means there is no safe Iraq. That “surge” also suggests that a sizable U.S. military presence may have to remain in Iraq just to keep some semblance of “peace.”

Of course, John McCain has suggested that there may be a need for a U.S. military presence for the next 100 years. Before we get all caught up in $4 gallons of gas, and mortgage foreclosures and recession vs. slowdown and greenhouse gases and ills of NAFTA, someone should remind these candidates that the war in Iraq is the greatest foreign policy blunder of the last century, worse than Vietnam and worse than Korea and almost worse than ignoring Hitler’s designs on Poland.

Here we have had an administration lie to the American public about the reasons for going to war, and then, horribly miscalculate the prosecution of that war, and then, simply put their heads in the sand about the fact that the war targeted the wrong country in the first place. Obama was right to chide McCain that al-Qaeda had no influence in Iraq until the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Osama bin Laden may have never been to Iraq. This election is certainly about the future, but we should not ignore the past or the present. Presently, we have U.S. citizens being sacrificed in Iraq simply because Bush is a liar and incompetent. We have the promise that McCain would continue that war; not because it is the right thing to do, but because he has no idea how to do anything different.

There is a war going on, and our young people are dying. It has not stopped because people are going to the polls. At some point these candidates ought to acknowledge that fact.

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