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U.S. military deaths in Iraq hit 4,000, but rate is slowing

The pace of attacks – and US fatalities – has dropped since last June.

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SCOTT WALLACE

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The rate of American military fatalities in Iraq has slowed in recent months – but total deaths reached 4,000 on Sunday, underscoring the difficulties of the struggle to contain Iraq's deadly insurgent and sectarian violence.

Opponents of the Iraq war will probably seize on this latest milestone to argue that significant numbers of US troops should be withdrawn. President Bush now needs to reverse course on the conflict and give the American public an accurate accounting of the conflict's human and financial costs, argued Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.

But the US public has been paying less attention to Iraq as the domestic economy sours. The decline in attacks that has coincided with the US military surge has led many Americans to believe that the situation there is improving, at least for now.

"The net result will be that this milestone will not have the sort of political effect previous ones have had," says Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The latest fatality mark was reached after a roadside bomb in south Baghdad killed four US soldiers on patrol at around 10 p.m. Sunday.

In general, however, the pace of American fatalities has slowed as attacks have dropped since the beginning of the surge last year. It has taken nine months for fatalities to rise from 3,500 to 4,000, from June of 2007 until now. By contrast, the increase from 3,000 to 3,500 took six months – from December of 2006 to June 2007.

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