I drive down the farm to market roads and see ragged yellow ribbons rotting on the gate posts. The symbol of a boy or a girl that has been sent off to fight in a war, in a place they can’t even locate on a map for some cause that a politician has decreed important. They may come back whole but their minds will never be the same. They may come back broken and they will never be able to help dad or grandpa with the cattle or the sheep.
They read a list of names at church this Sunday of those that are serving, Salazar, Martinez, Acosta, Bucholtz, Ramirez, Falcon, Pigueras, and so on; a list of twenty names from the towns of Campwood, Barksdale, and Leakey. Youngsters who I am sure haven’t a clue what they are doing or why they are dying.
Pretty soon this war in Iraq will have lasted as long as our involvement in World War II, with absolutely no evidence of any sort of conclusion in sight. Mr Bush says that we are winning, (in a pig’s eye).
The point of Memorial Day is to honor the service and the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the nation’s wars. But I suggest that we take a little time today to consider the living. Look around and ask yourself if you believe that stability or democracy in Iraq ? or whatever goal you choose to assert as the reason for this war ? is worth the life of your son or your daughter, or your husband or your wife, or the co-worker who rides to the office with you in the morning, or your friendly neighbor next door?
Before you gather up the hot dogs and head out to the barbecue this afternoon, look in a mirror and ask yourself honestly if Iraq is something you would be willing to die for?
There is no shortage of weaselly politicians and misguided commentators ready to tell us that we can’t leave Iraq ? We just can’t. Chaos will ensue. Maybe even a civil war. But what they really mean is that we can’t leave as long as the war can continue to be fought by other people’s children, and as long as we can continue to put this George W. Bush-inspired madness on a credit card. Start sending the children of the well-to-do to Baghdad, and start raising taxes to pay off the many hundreds of billions that the war is costing, and watch how quickly this tragic fiasco is brought to an end.
At an embarrassing press conference last week, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain looked for all the world like a couple of hapless schoolboys who, while playing with fire, had set off a conflagration that is still raging out of control. Their recklessness has so far cost the lives of nearly 2,500 Americans and
tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, many of them children.
Among the regrets voiced by the president at the press conference was his absurd challenge to the insurgents in 2003 to “bring ’em on.” But Mr. Bush gave no hint as to when the madness might end. How many more healthy young people will we shovel into the fires of Iraq before finally deciding it’s time to stop? How many dead are
There is no good news coming out of Iraq. Sabrina Tavernise of The Times recently wrote: “In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country.”
The middle class is all but panicked at the inability of the Iraqi government or American forces to quell the relentless violence. Ms. Tavernise quoted a businessman who is planning to move to Jordan: “We’re like sheep at a slaughter farm.”
Iraqis continue to be terrorized by kidnappers, roving death squads and, in a term perhaps coined by Mr. Bush, “suiciders.” The American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, acknowledged last week that even at this late date, there are parts of western Iraq that are not controlled by American forces, but rather “are under the control of terrorists and insurgents.”
Now we get word that U.S. marines may have murdered two dozen Iraqis in cold blood last November. No one should be surprised that such an atrocity could occur. That’s what happens in war. The killing gets out of control, which is yet another reason why it’s important to have mature leaders who will do everything possible to avoid war, rather than cavalierly sending the young and the healthy off to combat as if it were no more serious an enterprise than a big-time sporting event.
Nothing new came out of the Bush-Blair press conference. After more than three years these two men are as clueless as ever about what to do in Iraq. Are we doomed to follow the same pointless script for the next three years? And for three years after that?
Leadership does not get more pathetic than this. Once there was F.D.R. and Churchill. Now there’s Bush and Blair. Reacting to the allegations about the murder of civilians, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee, went to Iraq last week to warn his troops about the danger of becoming “indifferent to the loss of a human life.”
Somehow that message needs to be conveyed to the top leaders of this country, and to the public at large. There is no better day than Memorial Day to reflect on it. As we remember the dead, we should consider the living, and stop sending people by the thousands to pointless, unnecessary deaths.
Sorry to be so preachy.
It isn’t the first time I’ve felt anger, even rage, about the needless conflict in Iraq. I recall a rant a month or so ago because “U.S. propaganda efforts in Iraq in 2004 cost $24 million, but much of that went for construction of offices and housing for the troops involved, and for radio broadcasts and thousands of leaflets bearing Zarqawi’s face.” The Rock River Times Right – not only do we fight a senseless war using billions of dollars of taxpayer money, but we also spend another couple of dozen million to lie about what’s really going on.
I was reading National Geographic the other day and noticed a letter to the editor that got my blood boiling, again. The writer stated, “I’m angry with your decision to show the picture of the woman injured by the mine lying there with one foot blown off … is this something that is appropriate for the children that are a large part of your audience?” National Geographic May 2006
That’s right – let’s ignore the reality of war. That way, we can continue this mindless glorification of it to the detriment of Humanity for yet another millenia or two. That writer is a fool, just as are the men who took the decisions to start this conflict in Iraq. We now have very powerful reasons to believe that those decisions were taken in bad faith, by mental midgets who are in positions of power under exceptionally questionable circumstances.
Let those who object to the reality of war be required to watch not glorious Hollywood versions of battle, but rather the movies that depict its graphic truth. For an example of someone who knows exactly what I mean, see Fight to Survive, where one soldier who served in Iraq isn’t afraid to recommend the same for writers like the fellow in National Geographic.
And then there are the accounts of Iraqis who must face this reality daily. For example, read what hnk (the only name she identifies) has to say of her life as a sixteen-year old kid in Mosul. And there are plenty more just like her on the Web now, and they’re only hard to find for those who don’t want to know the truth.
I, for one, am sick of people who object to seeing the violence of war. If we ceased to hide from the reality, maybe there would finally be a chance that the groundswell of revulsion for war could culminate in a rejection of violence as any useful human behaviour.