American death toll in Iraq reaches grim milestone at 101

By The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The American death toll for October climbed past 100, a grim milestone as a White House envoy turned up unexpectedly in Baghdad on Monday following a rough patch in U.S.-Iraqi ties. At least 81 people were killed across Iraq, including 33 in a bombing targeting workers.

A member of the 89th Military Police Brigade was killed in east Baghdad on Monday, and a Marine died in fighting in insurgent-plagued Anbar province the day before, raising to 101 the number of U.S. service members killed in a bloody October, the fourth deadliest month of the war. At least 2,814 American forces have died since the war began in March 2003.

According to an Associated Press count, October has also recorded more Iraqi civilian deaths – 1,170 as of Monday – than any other month since the AP began keeping track in May 2005. The next-highest month was March 2006, when 1,038 Iraqi civilians were killed in the aftermath of the Feb. 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra.

The war and the rising American casualties have produced a huge drag on Republican candidates as the U.S. midterm election approaches. The vote is seen in many cases as a referendum on the war, which has stretched into its 44th month. The Bush administration has invested heavy attention on Iraq in recent weeks, trying to put a new face on the conflict with mixed results.

Upon arriving for an unannounced visit, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley went straight into meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his security chief, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, telling them he “wanted to reinforce some of the things you have heard from our president.”

Al-Rubaie told the AP late Monday that Hadley was here to discuss the work of a five-man committee that al-Maliki and Bush agreed to Saturday. Hadley also presented some proposals concerning the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces as well as security plans.

“It was a useful visit,” he said, but refused to give any details, saying only that Hadley’s meetings were limited to al-Rubaie and al-Maliki.

The White House said Hadley was not on a mission to repair ragged relations, accounts of which it said had been “overblown” by the news media.

“Absolutely not,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington. “This is a long-planned trip to get a firsthand report of the situation on the ground from the political, economic and security fronts.”