WASHINGTON - The U.S. military announced Friday the deaths of four Marines and one soldier, bringing the number of American servicemen and women who've died in Iraq since the war began two and a half years ago to 1,993.
Three of the Marines were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad and the fourth died Wednesday in a car-bomb attack in Karbala. The soldier died of wounds sustained during a mortar attack Thursday on a base in Hit, northwest of the Iraqi capital.
With deaths coming at an average of more than two per day, it appears likely that the number of dead will reach 2,000 in a matter of days.
There's nothing inherently special about that number, but it provides a marker of sorts for the American effort to transform Iraq from dictatorship to democracy, and it's a sobering reminder of the human cost of the U.S. presence in that country, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has suggested could last another 10 years.
The number of troops wounded in Iraq stands at 15,220, according to the Pentagon. Of those, 7,159 were so seriously hurt that they haven't returned to duty.
As the Bush administration vows to stay the course in Iraq, a poll earlier this month by the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of American adults now think that invading Iraq was the wrong decision and 48 percent think that the United States should bring the troops home as soon as possible.
While few lawmakers, either Republican or Democratic, are calling for an outright withdrawal from Iraq, pressure is mounting for the Bush administration to cajole the Iraqis to reach a political settlement that will end the insurgency and come up with an exit strategy.