Monday, February 19, 2007

our blood & treasure

a sniper’s bullet took the life of a 20 year old marine in early december 2006 in iraq’s al anbar province.

this marine’s father and i grew up near each other in california’s bay area and new york’s staten island during the “new frontier”/“great society” years when our respective fathers--both career service members--had similar postings. the young marine’s father and i both had younger brothers around the same age. our connection was that typical of preadolescent males at that time: riding our bikes, building “forts,” and hanging out with other abundant baby boomers.

the young marine's father and i parted ways the summer before second grade (1966) when his father was transferred. i didn’t run into him again until late in the summer of 1976 when he--enlisted in the military himself--was posted in my michigan “hometown.” my senior year in high school had just begun when i picked up slain marine's father at muskegon airport and brought him to his new post the next day. who would've thought that our country would again so miscalculate?

thirty years later his son is killed on the other side of the globe and i wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of what to say to him. in fact, i wonder whether words can even help in such a tragic situation. perhaps they do more harm than good?

and, perhaps, our presence in iraq does more harm than good as well. issues of oil and geopolitics aside, there is the fact of our mediating a civil war between sunni and shiite muslims. is that mediation between these relentless fanatics worth the blood of young americans?

in my humble opinion, the answer is “no,” but then i am only one american. i wonder how the families of british soldiers killed in northern ireland during the “troubles” felt about losing their loved ones to mediate that senseless conflict between warring presbyterian and roman catholic extremists in their respective “ulster defense” and “irish republican” factions. today, do those families feel the lives of people in northern ireland were worth the lives of their sons? i just wonder…

at very least, in the civil war that raged in vietnam when young marine's father and i were in grade school and junior high, our “enemy,” ho chi minh cautioned his people on radio broadcasts that americans were basically a good people: that the actions of the u.s. government were an aberration. today’s sunni and shiite iraqis largely hate us--across the board--as americans.

i am grateful for americans who willingly put their lives on the line for our “freedom.” it would be so much better if this effort and sacrifice were built upon reality and truth rather than self-serving and expedient rhetoric. while i am not--in any way--a major fan of my state’s junior senator, i do agree with hillary rodham clinton on her strong words to the iraqi “government” that “they cannot rely on the blood and treasure of america any longer.”

please pray for the many thousands of families whose lives have been turned upside down by this tragic conflict.

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