Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Life, Wasted

From the Washington Post and a first person perspective on war... a father's words, not mine:

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.


Capt. Fogg said...

Were the lives lost in Viet Nam wasted? Obviously yes, since that country fell to Communism and communism fell too. The "lights of freedom" didn't go out at all.

I dont think this war will have any effect on religious extremism and I'm not optimistic about Iraq's future, but that's never been what the war was about. In my opinion, it's been Bush's personal crusade designed to increase his power and nothing else.

Reign of Reason said...

That's what I see too: a ridiculous policy that'll end up increasing anti-American sentiment in the region -- Dear Leader's policies will end up putting more lives at risk both directly (as a result of the war) and indirectly (creating more opportunities for the fundamentalists to recruit).

What gets me is why most people don't see it... I guess they get to the 'kick ass and take names' part of foreign policy and quit thinking.

Unfortunately there are consequences to any action -- and our leaders didn't think them thru.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Depends on how you define wasted. The guy voluntarily went into the military knowing the risks. If you define "wasted" by not agreeing the war was a good idea, there are very few times a soldier's life would not be wasted. The fact is, a soldier is a warrior with a duty to fight as he is told to do. Period. If a soldier wants to question who to fight and why, he shouldn't be in the military.

Reign of Reason said...

Well -- that too is a matter of perspective.

We all took an oath to "support and defend" the constitution vs all enemies... Yeah, we have to obey the orders of those appointed above us, but it is fairly clear this current "action" isn't 'defending' anyone from an enemy.

In that sense I think it is a waste.

Democracy Lover said...

Intellectual insurgent - I have to strongly disagree.

When a young man enters the military he knowingly agrees to risk his life to protect his country. When the nation's leaders use that military to wage wars of agression or imperial conquest, then they have perpetrated a fraud on the soldiers and the public.

Certainly the military cannot function if each individual soldier makes a decision on the question of when to fight on the field of battle, but that's not what the dead soldier's father suggested. He suggests that our nation's leaders should not employ the military (risking the lives of our soldiers) unless they are truly protecting the US from attack. That simple policy would have insured that the US military adventures of the last 50 years would have not taken place.

It's time we realized that the US Armed Forces are NOT protecting us. The soldiers are not being maimed and killed to "protect our freedoms". All that patriotic horse shit should be shoved back in the face of the lying bastards from both political parties who have misused our military.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

If the standard for joining the military is to "protect" the nation, which wars were justified? WWII is the only one that comes to mind. Otherwise, Vietnam was a war of aggression by the U.S., just as was Korea, Iraq I and II, Grenada, Panama and the list goes on...

I don't agree with the war anymore than any of you, but a soldier is supposed to follow orders. If he had the rational, philosophical mind to question the validity of the war, he probably never would have enlisted in the first place. Funny how educated people are almost never sent to the front lines.

Reign of Reason said...

DL -- exactly.

II -- actually, I volunteered because I believe in the principles that founded this nation... and I feel I should give some of myself to protect those values. But as DL said, I think this administration, more so than any other since those involved in the Vietnam disaster, have abused that trust.

Reign of Reason said...

I have a couple more min...

The main problem isn't with using the military for "non-defense" reasons. That is a problem. But if your leader is somewhat intelligent you can be judicious and use the military like Clinton did: to stop genocide or another war.

Now, you never know if things will turn out as planned, but starting with intelligent leaders -- whose premise is to be skeptical and wary of the use of military force for non-defense reasons – is a premise for a sane foreign policy.

The problem with the Iraq war isn't (necessarily) that Iraq wasn't a threat. It's that our leadership completely misjudged the level of effort required (and they lied to us about why they wanted to go in).

Intellectual Insurgent said...

What if the reason the U.S. is in Iraq is to control the world's second largest reserve of oil (since the U.S. controls the largest -- Saudi Arabia) to ensure that the U.S. remains the sole world superpower and to use oil as a weapon against competitors? In other words, so Americans can continue to be gluttonous pigs who drive SUV's while Europeans drive Smart Cars?

Is that a good enough reason to go to war? If that scenario is correct, was the guy's life wasted?

Misjudging the effort necessary to win can't be the deciding factor as to whether a soldier's life was wasted.

d nova said...

it sure has a familiar ring 2 it. i wonder if i've read something similar fro another parent.

unfortunately, learning often takes pain.

these deaths will only be in vain if we don't learn from them this time.

Reign of Reason said...

That's true....

We're receiving another lesson right now. Maybe we'll learn it this time.