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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/8/11

They Died in Vain; Deal With It

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Over the next several days, TV viewers will get a steady diet of this kind of disingenuous logic from talk show hosts feeding on the grist from Obama, Mullen, Allen, and others. After all, many pundits work for news organizations owned or allied with some of the same corporations profiteering from war.

Too bad CBS's legendary Edward R. Murrow is long since dead; and the widely respected Walter Cronkite, as well. Taking the CBS baton from Murrow, who had challenged the "red scare" witch hunt of Sen. Joe McCarthy, Cronkite gradually saw through the dishonesty responsible for the killing of so many in Vietnam. He finally spoke up, and said, in effect, any more who die will have died in vain.

(The very long hiatus between Cronkite and Scott Pelley, newly appointed "CBS Evening News" anchor, has been particularly painful. The jury is still out, but I harbor some hope that Pelley may try to follow CBS's earlier, prouder tradition, if by some miracle his corporate bosses allow him to. Given today's prevailing atmosphere of obeisance to Establishment Washington, Pelley certainly has his work cut out for him. We shall have to wait and see if he has it in him to take the risk of rising to the occasion.)

Corporal Shank and Specialist Kirkland

Five years ago, I was giving talks in Missouri, when the body of 18-year-old Cpl. Jeremy Shank of Jackson, Missouri (population 12,000) came home for burial. He was killed in Hawijah, Iraq, on September 6, 2006 while on a "dismounted security patrol when he encountered enemy forces using small arms," according to the Pentagon.

Which enemy forces? Two weeks before Shank was killed, Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush's national security adviser, acknowledged that the challenge in Iraq "isn't about insurgency, isn't about terror; it's about sectarian violence." Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Makiki added, "The most important element in the security plan is to curb the religious violence."

So was Shank's mission to prevent Iraqi religious fanatics from blowing up one another? What do you think; was that worth his life?

On September 7, 2006, the day after Shank was killed, President Bush, in effect, mocked his unnecessary death by drawing the familiar, but bogus, connection between 9/11 and the "war on terror," of which he claimed Iraq was a part. Bush said, "Five years after September 11, 2001, America is safer -- and America is winning the war on terror."

Flowery Funeral Words

Back at the First Baptist Church in Jackson, Missouri, Rev. Carter Frey eulogized Shank as one of those who "put themselves in harm's way and paid the ultimate sacrifice so you and I can have freedom to live in this country."

Correction: It was not Cpl. Shank who put himself in harm's way; it was those who used a peck of lies to launch a bloody, unnecessary war -- first and foremost, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- not to mention the craven Congress that authorized it and most of the FCM that led the cheerleading for it.

Was separating Shia from Sunni a mission worth what is so facilely called the "ultimate sacrifice," or -- for other troops -- the penultimate one paid by tens of thousands of veterans trying to adjust to life with brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or missing limbs?

Despite the self-serving rhetoric about "heroes," the young, small-town Shanks of America stand low in the priorities of Establishment Washington. They are pawns in the war games played by generals and politicians far, far from the battlefield.

Even in the Army in which I served, troops were often referred to simply as "warm bodies" -- that is, at least before they became cold and stiff. But that term was normally not accompanied by the mechanistic disdain reflected in the memo by a Fort Lewis-McCord Army major that came to light last year.

On March 20, 2010, Specialist Derrick Kirkland, back from his second tour in Iraq, hanged himself in the barracks at Fort Lewis-McCord, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Kirkland had been suffering from severe depression and anxiety attacks, for which he had to bear severe ridicule from his comrades.

Expendable

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 
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