Friday, January 06, 2006

In the Words of a Father

Most of you will already have seen the editorial by Paul Schroeder whose son was killed in Iraq. You can read the whole story at the Washington Post. Here is an excerpt:

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?

I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

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.


Anonymous Emma's Son said...

Emotions rule the heart, but visions can open the mind. King David was a noble bloody man who allowed his emotions to rule his heart. Though his warring did great good to secure the peace of Israel his own soul was lost to a great degree because of his heart. At one point in his life he cried more over the death of his treasonous son than the lives of the men who gave their lives for him and his kingdom. Emotions can blind the mind.

With that said, my heart goes out to all those who have lost children in this war. I have two sons serving in the Army now. David is a gunner on a HV in the 109th Trans. and has survived a IED up close without a scratch in Iraq. Guy is in the 10th Mountain and headed to Afghanistan next week. Either of my sons could come home in a body bag, but they are doing what they want and I know now that God will accept of their noble offering whether this war is right or wrong.

The life of a true warrior is never wasted. Their spirits go on into glory for they have given their lives for something lesser or greater than self. It is said, in the good book "the people perish where there is no vision." Even the Native American Indians ran off into war against impossible odds crying, "Today is a good day to die." Why? Because they were a visionary people and knew the other side of life.

No cause is worthy if the people aren't willing to die for it. Our enemies know this all to well and terrorize us with death. I think our children are teaching us a lesson we are to weak to learn.

I ran from war in the sixties hiding behind my beliefs as a CO and later 4F. However, at Woodstock God opened my mind to a great vision which has forever changed my heart, mind and spirit. May we all find the peace to face death for what it is and not play the blame game as children.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, man.

I too am a reformed liberal (used to be a conservative), but modern conservatism has pushed me away -- they're now the polar opposite of what I think.

Get the troops out of there; we're wasting time, money, resources, etc. All these troops dying and yet I'm still paying $2.50/gallon at the pump. Isn't that what the first Iraqi invasion (1991 was it?) all about? Vietnam didn't even last this long (another failure). Korea didn't last this long (another failure).

-David J-


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