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By August 1863 the United States had suffered a quarter of a million casualties. Copperhead Democrats would seek to oust Lincoln in the 1864 election in order to end the war through concessions to the Confederacy. Lincoln’s presence at the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg national cemetary gave him the opportunity to address the nation’s press and thus the nation.

His words were powerful in their simplicity.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The war in Iraq is not the American Civil War. But even unquestionably righteous wars have caused the resolve of the American people to waiver. War sucks. Way too many men and women, 4,082 Americans and innumerable Iraqis, have died. On November 4, 2008 the American people have the opportunity to ensure that they have not died in vain.