Death Takes This Holiday: Grim Milestone Reaps TV Ad Blitz

As the news of the 2,000th American soldier's death in Iraq hit the headlines, anti-war nonprofits have loosed ad campaigns to publicize the milestone, hoping to pressure the administration to make a drastic change to its war policy.

Operation Truth, an online nonprofit started by an Iraq war veteran, this week is sponsoring a $150,000 ad buy, which will run for six days on CNN and Fox News Channel, as well as an online letters-to-the-editor writing campaign to push newspapers to keep the spotlight on casualties in Iraq. The TV spot depicts flag-draped coffins on their way home from Iraq, and asks if there isn't a better way to bring the troops home.

Operation Truth prepared the ad ahead of time to take advantage of the news focus the 2,000th death would likely bring. "We had been talking about the 2,000 mark coming up before it happened," explained Eric Schmeltzer, who is consulting with the group. "We were hoping it would come later rather than sooner, but the organization needed to be prepared on what it had to say."



Concurrent with the TV campaign, Operation Truth sent a mass e-mail to its list of roughly 40,000 members, urging them to come to the site and send a form letter to the editor of their newspaper of choice, calling on the paper to run daily casualty reports on their front page.

"As we pass the grim milestone of 2,000 American casualties in Iraq, it is past time that this newspaper adequately honor our fallen troops by publishing their names on Page One," the letter reads. "It is an insult to America's troops to find the names of their fallen colleagues relegated to the back pages." According to Schmeltzer, roughly 1,650 letters were sent to 529 different newspapers as of last week.

Although the ad campaign focuses on the 2,000th casualty milestone, Schmeltzer said the aim of the organization is to get the public, as well as the media, to focus on each death as much as the 2,000th. "The 2,000 milestone is something that's media created. The 1,999th death was no less important," he said. "But unfortunately, that's what happens with the media, and we need to change that."

Left-wing PAC also prepared a TV ad to run highlighting the 2,000th death, and is soliciting donations on their Web site to raise money to air the spot. Their ad features a plain wooden coffin surrounded by desert sands, and asks "how many more?" did not return calls for comment.

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