February 14, 2007

Someone Like All the People You Know

Tuesday saw the beginning of the long-awaited debate in the House of Representatives over President Bush's plan to commit an additional 21,500 combat troops and an as-yet-undetermined number of support personnel to the occupation of Iraq. While this debate will help the new Congressional Democratic leadership test the waters for further action - which both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative Jack Murtha have hinted is coming - it will not actually cut off funding or otherwise prevent the president from sending more Americans to shore up the greatest foreign policy fiasco in the history of the United States. Although in a best-case scenario it might represent the first step in extracting the U.S. from Iraq, in the meantime, while a feckless Capitol Hill engages in base political theater, more people are dying in George W. Bush's War.

Incredibly, the first congressional debate on sending troops to Iraq comes nearly four years into the conflict, a fact which can only truly be comprehended when it is understood how little impact the invasion and occupation have had on the majority of Americans. Even as the death toll for U.S. service members has passed 3,100 and the number of wounded, maimed and disabled has climbed into the tens of thousands, expectations for sacrifice have been kept appallingly low for anyone who doesn't have a family member or loved one in harm's way. As President Bush - in what can only be called the "Let them eat cake" of our time put it:
Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.
How have we found ourselves able to look the other way, to change the channel or to do whatever it is we do to maintain the "peace of mind" we are being asked to "sacrifice" every time some young kid or some reservist with children of his own is killed or disfigured on the other side of the world? While some - if not most - of the blame resides within ourselves, it is human nature to avoid conflict, and the Iraq War has been carefully managed by the administration to ensure that images of American youth cut down in its prime are kept from public view.

Reporters "embedded" with units are threatened with a loss of access - or worse - if they don't tow the official line; reading the names of those killed on Memorial Day is labeled "deeply offensive"; and even photographing the flag-draped coffins of the fallen is forbidden. The contrast between the "home front" and the real front is beyond striking, and it is only possible because the individuals - the human beings - who serve in our nation's armed forces are regarded simply as nameless, faceless "troops" or "soldiers" or "marines," rather than as people.

So as Congress dithers over non-binding resolutions that do nothing, take a moment to think about those who have died in Iraq as individuals and as people. Recognize each of the 3,128 killed to date as someone who had friends and teammates and a family; someone who had memories and hopes and aspirations; someone who had a favorite song, a movie he quoted, a book that shaped her life, a favorite color; someone like you and all the people you know.

For while we ask those who serve to sacrifice themselves, to ignore pain and to perform acts of bravery in the face of terrifying odds, every mother who loses a son or daughter wants her child home and safe more than she wants any medal or recognition from a commander in chief who equates a diminished peace of mind with the loss she has suffered. As one such mother said, "I wanted him here, and I didn't have him."

George W. Bush wants to send 21,500 more people into the jaws of a conflict that was lost before it was ever launched, and at no cost to himself or to those who report to him.


No more dead.

And no more wounded.

Wounded U.S. Marine returns home from Iraq to marry

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