Bob Herbert: Dying for Iraq

This makes me wonder, what ever happened to all those strident righties who used to argue how we are winning in Iraq and that the war was well worth it? Where’d you all go? Did you enlist? Ha.

Consider the Living
Published: May 29, 2006

Pretty soon this war in Iraq will have lasted as long as our involvement in World War II, with absolutely no evidence of any sort of conclusion in sight.

The point of Memorial Day is to honor the service and the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the nation’s wars. But I suggest that we take a little time today to consider the living.

Look around and ask yourself if you believe that stability or democracy in Iraq — or whatever goal you choose to assert as the reason for this war — is worth the life of your son or your daughter, or your husband or your wife, or the co-worker who rides to the office with you in the morning, or your friendly neighbor next door.

Before you gather up the hot dogs and head out to the barbecue this afternoon, look in a mirror and ask yourself honestly if Iraq is something you would be willing to die for.

There is no shortage of weaselly politicians and misguided commentators ready to tell us that we can’t leave Iraq — we just can’t. Chaos will ensue. Maybe even a civil war. But what they really mean is that we can’t leave as long as the war can continue to be fought by other people’s children, and as long as we can continue to put this George W. Bush-inspired madness on a credit card.

Start sending the children of the well-to-do to Baghdad, and start raising taxes to pay off the many hundreds of billions that the war is costing, and watch how quickly this tragic fiasco is brought to an end.

At an embarrassing press conference last week, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain looked for all the world like a couple of hapless schoolboys who, while playing with fire, had set off a conflagration that is still raging out of control. Their recklessness has so far cost the lives of nearly 2,500 Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, many of them children.

Among the regrets voiced by the president at the press conference was his absurd challenge to the insurgents in 2003 to “bring ’em on.” But Mr. Bush gave no hint as to when the madness might end.

How many more healthy young people will we shovel into the fires of Iraq before finally deciding it’s time to stop? How many dead are enough?

There is no good news coming out of Iraq. Sabrina Tavernise of The Times recently wrote: “In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country.”

The middle class is all but panicked at the inability of the Iraqi government or American forces to quell the relentless violence. Ms. Tavernise quoted a businessman who is planning to move to Jordan: “We’re like sheep at a slaughter farm.”

Iraqis continue to be terrorized by kidnappers, roving death squads and, in a term perhaps coined by Mr. Bush, “suiciders.”

The American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, acknowledged last week that even at this late date, there are parts of western Iraq that are not controlled by American forces, but rather “are under the control of terrorists and insurgents.”

Now we get word that U.S. marines may have murdered two dozen Iraqis in cold blood last November.

No one should be surprised that such an atrocity could occur. That’s what happens in war. The killing gets out of control, which is yet another reason why it’s important to have mature leaders who will do everything possible to avoid war, rather than cavalierly sending the young and the healthy off to combat as if it were no more serious an enterprise than a big-time sporting event.

Nothing new came out of the Bush-Blair press conference. After more than three years these two men are as clueless as ever about what to do in Iraq. Are we doomed to follow the same pointless script for the next three years? And for three years after that?

Leadership does not get more pathetic than this. Once there was F.D.R. and Churchill. Now there’s Bush and Blair.

Reacting to the allegations about the murder of civilians, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee, went to Iraq last week to warn his troops about the danger of becoming “indifferent to the loss of a human life.”

Somehow that message needs to be conveyed to the top leaders of this country, and to the public at large. There is no better day than Memorial Day to reflect on it. As we remember the dead, we should consider the living, and stop sending people by the thousands to pointless, unnecessary deaths.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

I urge anyone who has access to HBO to watch their documentary, “BAGHDAD ER.” It is very graphic and disturbing. But my feeling is, if you can’t watch it, then you have no business supporting this war on any level, because severed feet being thrown into waste-buckets is a part of what this war is about.

At one point, an exhausted American surgeon says, “I have to believe that the Iraqi peoples’ lives are better…or will be better someday…as a result of this war. If that isn’t true…then this whole thing is completely meaningless.” And he sort of stares off, and you know that he already is pretty sure that this whole thing IS completely meaningless, but is still looking for some reason for it all, that makes it worthwhile on some level.

I’m paraphrasing his remarks but hope I’ve captured their essence.

May 29, 2006 @ 3:36 am | Comment

Peking Duck,

Keep posting Herbert,Krugman and Dowd. Love their columns and hate the NYT’s selection price. Thanks.

May 29, 2006 @ 7:28 am | Comment

As long as you are making comparisons to WWII, how many Americans die in WWII? A lot more than 2500. Actually, in the years after the WII, more American GIs died in a random military accidents than in fighting entire antiterrorists campaign.

I’ll take you seriously when you start devoting so much of an ounces to anger at those who actually kill the Muslim men, women, and childrens as the deliberate method of wars instead of those who tried to stop it in their effots, even if the effort are misguided.

I’ll take you seriously when you think of a world in Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq this 2006 year, and what consequences it would had for Iraq, the middle east, and the world.

It makes me sick to think that if someone like you was in office instead of Harry Truman, I’d be living under Kim Jong-Il today. And maybe I’m not living, I’m dead. Maybe you say in 1951 the war is ‘quagmire’ and we should leave. I am alive in Korea today not because you, but people opposite of you.

Maybe if we go back in time we can stop the war. But now we can’t, so what would you do, because instant withdraw will be terrible.

May 29, 2006 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Flatfoot, the men and women who died in WWII did so for a specific reason, so specific, tangible goals, and none died in vain. In Iraq, there is no reason, and no clear goals (remember, the goal was WMDs?). It appears that as in Vietnam, literally all will die uin vain, with nothing to show for it. Saddam, meanwhile, hated al Qaida, had nothing like the terrorism mechanism possessed by Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and was an old fart in the twilight of his power. he posed no threat to anyone except the poor souls he tortured and oppressed, as so many dictators do (including our allies Saudi Arabia and Uzbekestan and countless others). You have no idea what you are talking about – I never said i advocated instant withdrawal. That would be intolerable. But the very worst thing to do is just what Bush advocates, staying the course. Talk about intolerable…

May 29, 2006 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

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