The biggest holiday story you didn't hear about

It's hard for news to break into the holiday media cycle, what with wall-to-wall coverage of consumer spending habits and college bowl games. But some stories deserve special attention no matter what -- like this news, which came out a few days before New Years:

It's often written or said in the media that, despite public opposition to the Iraq war here at home, military personnel strongly back President Bush's handling of the conflict. But a poll for the Military Times newspapers, released Friday, shows that more troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war than approve of it.

It came on the day that at least four more Americans died in the war, pushing the monthly total to 107, the high point for the year -- and the total figure to 2,997, near the milestone of 3,000.

Barely one in three service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, according to the new poll for the four papers (Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Times). In another startling finding, only 41% now feel it was the right idea to go to war in Iraq in the first place.

And the number who feel success there is likely has shrunk from 83% in 2004 to about 50% today. A surprising 13% say there should be no U.S. troops in Iraq at all.

Monumental news, indeed -- especially in the South, the source of a disproportionate share of the nation's troops and the place most are based (56% of active-duty personnel are based in the South, according to a 2002 Institute study).

But as the Carpetbagger Report points out, these eye-opening findings have been greeted with a deafening silence:

In terms of newspapers, the San Jose Mercury News and the Seattle Times were the only U.S. papers to run stories of their own. Reuters and UPI mentioned the poll in wire stories, which were not widely picked up. That's it. That's all the print coverage the poll received.

Broadcast outlets were a bit better, with CNN and ABC mentioning the poll on the air, but that's still not exactly widespread coverage.

Aside from excellent coverage in a few newspapers, the Institute's poll last October about Southern attitudes towards the Iraq war (turning sharply against it) faced a similar lack of media interest.

What is it that makes widespread and growing opposition to the Iraq war -- arguably the biggest policy issue on the table, and the centerpiece of President Bush's entire foreign policy -- not a major story? Or as the Carpetbagger report puts it:

So why not mention a poll that highlights the fact that many troops disapprove of Bush, don't support an escalation, don't see Iraq as part of the war on terror, and don't believe that success in Iraq is likely?

It sounds kind of newsworthy.