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Conservatives blast 'Nightline' over listing of 721 soldiers killed in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- Veteran journalist Ted Koppel devoted his ''Nightline" program Friday to broadcasting the names and photographs of 721 American soldiers killed in Iraq, sparking outrage from conservatives who called it antiwar propaganda.

But Koppel said the ABC show, extended to 40 minutes from its normal half-hour to accommodate all the names, was a politically neutral way of honoring those who had died.

''Our goal tonight was to elevate the fallen above the politics and the daily journalism," he said at the end of the program. ''The reading of those 721 names was neither intended to provoke opposition to the war nor as an endorsement."

Koppel said he was not opposed to the war in Iraq, launched in March 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein.

''I am opposed to sustaining the illusion that war can be waged by the sacrifice of a few without burdening the rest of us in any way," he said. ''I oppose the notion that to be at war is to forfeit the right to question, criticize, or debate our leaders' policies."

The show was broadcast on the eve of the anniversary of Bush's May 1, 2003, ''mission accomplished" declaration from the deck of an aircraft carrier that major combat in Iraq was over.

Since then, a guerrilla war waged by a range of anti-US groups has intensified and 134 Americans were killed in April alone, the bloodiest month for US forces since the war began.

The program was inspired by a June 1969 edition of Life magazine that carried the names and pictures of all the American soldiers killed in a single week in the Vietnam War.

That issue of the magazine was credited with fueling public sentiment against the war in Vietnam and conservative commentators accused Koppel of trying to encourage similar opposition to the war in Iraq.

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