Monday, September 19, 2005

1,900 Dead – And The Truth We Dare Not Speak

With the death of a soldier from the 56th Brigade Combat Team near Al Asad, Iraq on September 17, we have hit yet another cruel milestone in the Iraq war.

We now have 1,900 brave, military men and women dead. Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters and friends who will never again breathe in their homeland or realize their dreams because of the hidden agendas, ideological policies and confirmed lies of the Bush administration.

As a Veteran, I understand the mindset of someone serving our country. Orders are to be followed without question, because failure to do so means a system of dependability, built on mutual trust and assurance, can no longer be guaranteed. In a time of war – and certainly in active combat – you need to know that your buddy has your back and that personal misgivings over the required action will not result in their hesitation and your death.

But the presumption underlying all of that has been the integrity, honesty and purity of purpose of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government – in other words, we trust that they know what's best and are doing what is required to keep us safe.

It is that assumption that brings bumper-sticker phrases to life and applies them to the very-real sacrifice of those we have lost in the Iraq war. It has become almost rote for us to say that the men and women we have lost died “fighting for our freedom” or to “keep us free.”

The truth we dare not speak is that those assertions are a lie.

They are a national balm, used to salve the ugly truth behind the deaths of these brave people who, in the ultimate act of good faith, lost their lives believing in rules that no longer seem to apply. They are empty phrases used by those wishing they were true or by political charlatans, hoping to mask one simple truth: That our countrymen who have perished in Iraq died for absolutely nothing.

I hate saying that. When you've worn the uniform, as I have, there's a bond that's never lost with those who have served in the past and those who are in the line of fire every day in Iraq. I want desperately for their sacrifice to be as worthwhile in reality as it is in their honorable and courageous intent. But it's simply not true.

The bipartisan 9/11 Commission and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee all formally came to the same fundamental conclusions on the subject. They determined that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11, that they had no weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had no links to Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The official findings of our own government make it clear that we invaded another country for no reason.

I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every day when I hear the names of yet more Americans killed for nothing. They are dying in a country that did not attack us and that the indisputable proof now shows posed no threat whatsoever to the United States.

In one of the sickest bits of misrepresentation, George W. Bush and his crew walk around crowing about how we have brought democracy to Iraq, while the reality is that we are presiding over that country becoming a fully Islamic Republic, that will bring its citizens nothing resembling the democracy we say we have achieved.

So even the Bush administration's revisionist claims to have righteousness on our side in Iraq because we are delivering democracy to an oppressed people, turns out to also be false – which makes our human losses attributed to that end a waste as well.

At least the families of those killed in Afghanistan can take some solace in their loved ones having died going after the people who actually attacked our country four years ago. This is the one tiny bit of comfort that the families of our war dead have sometimes been able to feel – that their horrible loss was for a greater good, that moves our country forward and enables our way of life.

It is the ultimate cruelty that the families of those who have died in Iraq
are cheated of even that.

While it may be a truth we hate to speak, it's the truth just the same.