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The State of the Union

By       Message Katherine Brengle     Permalink
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2,232.

Two thousand, two hundred and thirty-two dead United States service members.

Two thousand, two hundred and thirty-two dead fathers, husbands, brothers, mothers, wives, and sisters. Two thousand, two hundred and thirty-two dead sons and daughters of America.

Two thousand, two hundred and thirty-two uniformed visits to families whose lives have been changed forever.

The news stories no longer disturb us the way they once did. "Seven soldiers killed in Baghdad today. " Seven more families who will receive the message that their loved ones died in action in a country so remote to us that many Americans can 't accurately point it out on a map.

The names of places like Falluja, Ramadi, Baghdad, Mosul, and Al Anbar Province slide off of our tongues as if we had lived there, when in truth we don 't know where they are, what they look like, how the people there live their lives. We say "weapons of mass destruction, " "IED, " and "Islamic fundamentalist " as if we have seen these things with our own eyes, or as if we have any way of comprehending their impact on the world.

On the left, we curse the darkness while our leadership continues to move to the right.

On the right, they can 't feel the darkness closing in around them because they have convinced themselves that what we do in the world, we do in our own best interest, and they have convinced themselves that that means it is right and good.
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On both sides, we often find it easy to forget those who are dying while we keep fighting at home. Until the person who dies is someone we know and love, we can 't really see the faces.

In March, the third anniversary of the invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq will be mourned by many of the American people. Three years of senseless killing, in the blink of an eye.

The right will keep telling us that we are fighting a noble fight in this far-away land. They will celebrate the "freedom " of the Iraqi people, and the spread of democracy and American (positive, of course) influence in the Middle East. They will remind us how horrible a leader Saddam Hussein was --that he gassed his own people and led a bloodthirsty, corrupt dictatorship --and why we had to go and remove him to save the people of Iraq. They will urge our country to "stay the course " in spite of conditions ripe for a bloody civil war when we finally, one day, leave Iraq. They will use this anniversary as an opportunity to launch attacks on everything from liberal views on the Abramoff scandals to Cindy Sheehan. They will call us un-American for calling for an end to this three-year war.

Many on the left will demonstrate, as we did last year, and the year before, asking the Bush Administration to bring our soldiers home from Iraq and give the American people the peace they so deeply desire. We will gather by the thousands to make our voices heard, because we live by our ideals --a desire for peace, a desire for a government that is held accountable for its actions, and a desire for a better world for our children, and our children 's children.

On March 19th, 2006, my husband will be in Iraq, as will over 100,000 other US soldiers and Marines. Those who survive that long, anyway. How many of them will still be there next year, on the fourth anniversary of a war we still don 't know why we are fighting?
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With the President 's State of the Union address less than a week away, now is the perfect time to ask him why he sent these soldiers from their homes and families to fight and die. It 's the perfect time for him to tell Cindy Sheehan and two thousand, two hundred and thirty-one other mothers why their sons and daughters are dead. It 's time for him to tell Missy Beattie why her nephew Chase is dead, long before his time. It 's time for him to give up the smoke and mirrors and rhetoric and tell us why.

Of course, he won 't. But it is our duty as free citizens to ask. It is our duty to expect answers and accountability. And it is the President 's responsibility to provide them.

Mr. President, you took an oath to the people of the United States of America. You placed your hand on the Holy Bible, as a man and as a Christian, and promised to take care of them and their country to the best of your ability. Is this really the best you can do? I think you can do better. I think you can find it within your heart to tell us why our soldiers died.

 

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Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist.

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