Matthew B. Stannard
San Francisco Chronicle
September 22, 2008

A year ago, the Iraq war was a sure bet to dominate the 2008 presidential campaign.

Gen. David Petraeus, admitting frustration at the war’s slow progress, predicted that the size of the U.S. force in Iraq would remain largely unchanged for the foreseeable future. American troops were dying at a rate of two or three a day. And one-third of voters said in a Gallup poll that Iraq would be the determining issue in who they’d vote for in November.

Against that backdrop, the two future presidential nominees couldn’t have been further apart. Sen. Barack Obama was calling for an immediate troop withdrawal; Sen. John McCain was warning that a date for withdrawal would be “a date for surrender.”

What a difference a year makes.

Today, Iraq is quieter, a turn that most experts attribute to the increase in troop strength and a renunciation of violence by U.S.-paid Sunni militias and rogue Shiite groups. Just eight American troops were killed in action in Iraq in July, the lowest level since the war began, and just 12 were killed in August.

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