Military Deaths in Iraq Exceed 9/11 Toll

by Larry McShane

Military Deaths in Iraq Exceed Sept. 11, 2001, Toll of 2,973 Deaths

NEW YORK - In a span of a few hours, 2,973 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a span of 45 months, the number of American troops killed in Iraq exceeded that grim toll as the war continues.

The milestone in Iraq came on Christmas, nearly four years after the war began, according to a count by The Associated Press.

The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of six more American soldiers, pushing the U.S. military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,977 four more than the number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

President Bush has said that the Iraq war is part of the United States' post-Sept. 11 approach to threats abroad, and that going on the offense against enemies before they could harm Americans meant removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, pursuing members of al-Qaida and seeking regime change in Iraq.

There has not been any credible evidence linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks. Democrats have said the war in Iraq detracted from efforts against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

"The president believes that every life is precious and he grieves for each one that is lost," deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said Tuesday. "The hardest decision the president has ever made has been to send our young men and women in uniform into harm's way.

"The president will ensure that their sacrifice was not made in vain."

The 9/11 death toll includes the 2,749 killed at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 passengers aboard United Flight 93.

Those killed in Iraq came from across the United States, including more than 50 residents of Alabama, more than 30 from Nebraska and more than 40 from Kentucky.

A number of them enlisted to fight in Iraq, feeling it was a way to battle international terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Jonathan Lootens, from upstate New York, joined the Army, telling family members: "This is something I have to do."

"It did impact him and make him feel like he should serve," his father, Robert Lootens, said Tuesday. "He felt that this was his time."

The 25-year-old sergeant was killed during his second tour of duty when a roadside bomb went off near his vehicle in the city of Kirkuk. His father says more than enough Americans have died in the conflict.

"I want the boys to come home, you know," he said. "Personally, I can't see where we're really accomplishing anything over there anymore."

Marine Lance Cpl. John Edward Hale was only 15 and living in Louisiana when the planes hit the World Trade Center. He joined the Marines last year after high school, and had been in Iraq only three months when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Michael Glover joined the Marines after his boyhood neighborhood the Belle Harbor section of Queens lost several residents in the Sept. 11 attacks. One of his best friends, an equities trader at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, was among those who died at the trade center.

Glover was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Fallujah.

The rising death toll was an emotional reminder of loss for family members of Sept. 11 victims, some who said the war had gone on long enough. Sally Regenhard's son Christian, a firefighter and a Marine, was killed at the trade center on Sept. 11.

"I just would like this war to stop in whatever way we need to," Regenhard said. "I can hardly tolerate it when I see these beautiful people. It reminds me of my son. ... These people are being massacred."

Associated Press writer Amy Westfeldt contributed to this story.

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