Monday, May 28, 2007

The Loss Of A Single Soldier

Recently I took Steve Clemons and Josh Marshall to task for essentially claiming that the loss of Andrew J. Bacevich Jr. is somehow more tragic than the loss of any other American child. I stand by that position, but it should never be forgotten that Lt. Bacevich's death was just as tragic as any other in the unnecessary Iraqi war. On this memorial day his life should be honored just as we should honor the lives of all the others who have fought and died in our service.

Yesterday the Washington Post published an op-ed by Lt. Bacevich's father entitled I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty. It is a remarkable answer to the cretins who have written the Bacevich family to tell them that his father's anti-war writings are directly responsible for their son's death. I recommend everyone concerned about Iraq read it, and read it carefully.

There is a passage in the op-ed that I would like everyone to consider. The Bacevich family lives in Massachusetts. Senators Kennedy and Kerry both called to express condolences. Their Congressman, Stephen F. Lynch, attended the wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. Hopefully the families of all of America's lost children receive similar expressions of condolence from their elected representatives.

Bacevich says that he got a brushoff when he suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war. "More accurately," wrote Bacevich, "after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me." Emphasis added.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions. Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.
Until the politicians stop listening exclusively to the rich and powerful the war will continue. Until we get their attention, our elected representatives, even liberal lions like Kennedy and Kerry, will continue to tell grieving families "don't blame me," as they eagerly take money from the rich and powerful in exchange for the priceless lives of our children.

The political pressure we need to apply to our representatives must be unrelenting. They must never forget that they are "our" representatives. Sorry Blue Girl, I am not willing to exchange a Summer of Death in the hope of a Republican collapse in the Fall. I don't want my government to have to send another Roger Clemens Inning Check to another family during the coming Friedman.

We have to continually work to peacefully end the Iraq war.