Bush’s Sacrificial Americans
By Tom Engelhardt
A Surge of Bodies
On January 4th, the Pentagon “announced the identities” of six American soldiers who had died between December 28th and New Year’s Eve. It was just one of many such listings over these last years and, like similar announcements, this one had a just-the-facts quality to it — spare to the bone, barely more information than you would get from a POW: rank, age, place of birth, date of death, place of death, type of death, and the unit to which the dead soldier belonged.
These announcements, which blend seamlessly into one another, also blend the dead into a relatively uniform mass. You can, of course, learn nothing from such skeletal reports about the dreams of these young men (and sometimes women), their hopes or fears, their plans for the future or lack of them, their talents and skills, their problems, their stray thoughts or deepest convictions, their worlds, and those who cared about them.
So few paragraphs are almost bound to emphasize not the individuality of the dead, but their similarity in death. Five of these soldiers died due to roadside explosives (IEDs), one from small-arms fire. Two died in Baghdad; two in Baqubah; the embattled capital of Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, where civil war rages; one in Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar Province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency; and one in Taji, also in the “Sunni Triangle.” None had a rank higher than sergeant. The oldest was only 22; the youngest, 20. Another thing five of the six had in common was not coming from a major American city.
It’s no news that George W. Bush has been living in a bubble world created by his handlers, but it’s hard not to believe that his own personal “bubble” isn’t far more longstanding than that. The problem, of course, is that only Mr. Bush and a few neocon stragglers are left inside the theater still showing his Iraq War movie. The Iraqis aren’t there. The man who pushed the button to shoot that missile surely wasn’t; nor were Zarqawi’s Shiite victims; nor were the 120 or more Iraqis who died this Tuesday, including the 41 bodies found dumped throughout Baghdad and the five found scattered around Mosul; nor was Dustin Donica, the 3,000th American who died in the war; nor was Pfc. Alan R. Blohm from Kenai, Alaska. None of them could put up a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster, cross-out the faces of the bad guys, land gloriously on an aircraft carrier, or dress up for war — and then go home “inspired.” They had the misfortune to be in a horrific reality into which a President, thoroughly in the dark, had sent them stumbling.
Now, George W. Bush is about to send even more young (and some not so young) Americans from hamlets, small towns, distant suburbs, and modest-sized cities all over America on yet another “last chance” mission. Perhaps he’s even still dreaming of that moment when, in those movies of old, the Marine Corps Hymn suddenly welled up and, against all odds, our troops started forward and the enemy began to fall. But before we’re done, if there’s a commander he might bring to mind, it’s not likely to be George Patton, but George Armstrong Custer.
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