Millions of Americans have watched and listened as President Barack Obama assured us the U.S. combat role in Iraq is over. "The war is ending," he proclaimed a few days ago.
Now consider what Lt. Col. Andy Ulrich told the American troops he was leading Wednesday - just hours after Obama's televised pledges - on a raid in northern Iraq:
"You all are combat troops not doing a combat mission - although it looks, smells, feels and hurts a lot like combat," Ulrich said. "Don't worry about what the politicians are saying, because we have a mission."
Nearly 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Many of their lives are at risk every day. During the coming months and years, many of them will die.
They will not be killed in combat roles, according to Obama - but they will be just as dead.
Tens of thousands of American civilians are in Iraq, too. Many of them are ex-servicemen and women, doing the very same jobs they did in the military. They serve in support functions formerly provided by military personnel. But they are employed as "civilian contractors," so they do not count as troops.
Many of them will perish during the coming months and years, too. They will not count as combat deaths - but they will be just as dead.
Use of civilians is not limited to support services. Some civilians carry guns and provide security for other contractors and U.S. government personnel. The State Department alone uses thousands of civilian guards. Departure of some combat troops has prompted the State Department to double the number of security contractors it has in Iraq, to 7,000.
Many of them will die long after the U.S. combat role has ended officially. Obama says they will not have been engaging in combat. They will not count as military casualties - but they will be just as dead.
Yet Obama says the U.S. combat role in Iraq is over. "The war is ending," he claims. It is not. Tens of thousands of Americans remain in harm's way in Iraq. No one can say how many of them will die or be maimed "not doing a combat mission."
Obama insists he has kept his promise to end the U.S. role in combat. He has not ... and he knows it.
Tragically, there is every reason to believe many, many American families will come to that realization in the near future.
Their lost loved ones will not count as combat fatalities - but they will be just as dead.