4000, 97, 25 and 33

03/24/2008 03:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As most of you have heard by now, America reached a tragic milestone yesterday when the 4000th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq. Less well publicized is the fact that 97% of American casualties have occurred since President Bush declared "mission accomplished," and that the 4000 mark was hit after a two-week surge in violence which saw the deaths of 25 American servicemen... the highest two-week death toll since last summer.

4000. 97. 25. In the abstract, they're just numbers, but to the family and friends of the dead and wounded, each increment represents a personal tragedy.

But there's another number that offers a glimmer of hope. 33 Democratic challengers have now signed on to the Responsible Plan to end the war in Iraq that Darcy Burner introduced last week in Washington D.C., and the momentum seems to be building day by day. 33 candidates, working outside the purview of the Beltway establishment, have come together to offer a comprehensive legislative framework for leaving Iraq responsibly, applying the diplomatic, political and economic surge necessary to stabilize the region, and reinforcing constitutional safeguards that might prevent a fiasco like this from happening again in the future.

I'm not so naive as to think that the Responsible Plan is so perfect that it can't be improved upon, or that it will likely be approved by Congress as is, in toto. But it represents a genuine grassroots and grasstips effort to change the conversation on national security and move us toward a responsible end to this disastrous occupation. While Republicans continue to wait to see if the surge is successful before considering changing course, Burner and her fellow Democratic challengers are leading an effort to address the real-world reality enunciated by Gen. David Petraeus: "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq."

4000, 97, 25 and 33. And counting.

David Goldstein writes on WA state politics at