Two Milestones Too Many

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Two terrible milestones in March:

The five-year anniversary of the Bush attack on Iraq, making our adventure there longer than any in the U. S. history of wars;

The 4,000th death of a U. S. soldier, sailor or Marine during the occupation.Two Milestones Too Many

Two terrible milestones in March:

The five-year anniversary of the Bush attack on Iraq, making our adventure there longer than any in the U. S. history of wars;

The 4,000th death of a U. S. soldier, sailor or Marine during the occupation.

For the Bush Administration, neither of these two events seems to have registered as tragic, or even important. Bush greeted the five-year mark by leaving his press secretary to say that the President “grieves for every lost American life;” it was only an empty clich, proven by the decision to level off the return of troops from Iraq, promising that they may stay at so-called pre-surge levels throughout the remainder of his term.

Thus, it will be for the incoming Administration to end the occupation of Iraq; even that is a scary prospect. If, heaven forbid!, John McCain is elected, he promises to keep troops there as long as needed to gain “victory” (whatever that may be), even if it takes 100 years. This is not as far-fetched an eventuality as might be thought: we continue to maintain thousands of troops in Korea some 55 years after that ceasefire. And, remember the “100 Year’s War” between England and France in the 14th and 15th Centuries.

If either of the Democratic candidates wins, they will be faced with the mess created by the Cheney, Bush, Neocon scheme. And, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are only proposing to begin withdrawal of troops within months after their inauguration, while stating the need to keep forces there indefinitely to defend the “Green zone,” help create stability and protect other interests there.

Nation magazine editor Jeremy Scahill told a Milwaukee audience on March 25 that the Democratic candidates offer little hope for those who look for peace in the Middle East. He urged persons to put pressure on the candidates now, during the campaign, to move toward positions that would bring about early withdrawal of U. S. forces.

Meanwhile, the scandalous 4,000 death number is said to be the “sacrifice” that this nation must make in order to remain “safe.” The insensitive supporters of this misguided war in Iraq have said that the 4,000 deaths are nothing, are inconsequential and a “small price to pay” for “keeping the U.S. safe.” They point to the number of deaths in Vietnam (58,000), in Korea (54,000) and during World War II (405,300).

Think about it: 4,000. That’s about the population of Dodgeville (Iowa County, WI) or Ladysmith (Rusk County).

That means, too, there were 4,000 instances where two representatives of the Armed Forces visited families to bring them the sad news of the death of their family member.

There were 4,000 memorial services, usually accompanied by 21-gun salutes that shattered the country sides, most of which were rural since the bulk of the volunteer Armed Forces are from rural and small town America.

There were 4,000 cases of remembrances about how the soldier, sailor or marine had been a fun-loving high-school student or a dedicated church-goer or loving family member.

In each of the 4,000 deaths, few people had the chutzpah, however, to ask bereaved family members whether the deaths were worth it. How, indeed, can you ask a mother, father, wife or sibling whether the sacrifice of their loved one was “in vain?” The answer must be: These men and women had served their country as they were asked to do. They served in the spirit of Valley Forge, of Gettysburg, of Chateau-Thierry, of Iwo Jima and of the Mekong Delta, following the orders of our nation’s civilian leadership, in the belief that these leaders were directing them into a just and worthwhile cause.

Sadly, our leaders were not only dead wrong in beginning this awful attack on Iraq, they were criminally negligent. They lied and deceived and manipulated to begin this war; they, and they alone, are responsible for the deaths of these 4,000 Americans, for the debilitating injuries to perhaps 30,000 more Americans, for the deaths of perhaps 100,000 Iraqis, for the destruction of the infrastructure of a nation and the decline in American prestige in the world.

Yet, they have no shame. It’s full steam ahead toward more war, more destruction and perhaps even an expansion into Iran. Vice President Cheney, when told 68% of Americans want the U. S. out of Iraq, replies: “So?” as in “So what?” He cares not for what the people want.

President Bush’s insensitivity is already legendary, but even his recent remarks to troops in Afghanistan recently are beyond belief. He told them in early March: “I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks.”

Bush had his choice to witness the “romance” of war during the Vietnam War, but used his father’s influence to get to the head of the line to join the Air National Guard, thus avoiding conflict.

Except for some brief spike in interest as a result of passing these two regrettable milestones, the Iraq invasion seems to be almost forgotten by the American people. Few families are directly affected; most Americans are more worried about gas prices and whether spring will ever arrive.

The only hope is for Americans who believe this war is a tragic mistake and that our troops must return home as soon as is practical to act. We must write our Congressional representatives, compose blogs or letters to the editor, contact our favorite (Democratic) presidential candidate and speak up everywhere to urge prompt removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Ken Germanson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. March 27, 2008.

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