Circulating through the country are television ads that individually feature the truly tragic stories of a family, a mother, a marine, all of whom have suffered the most horrendous of losses; the family has lost a son, the mother her son, and the marine his legs all to the war in Iraq. And the messages enunciated by each of them can be summed as one single beseeching missive: any proposal to remove the remaining soldiers and marines from that war-torn zone is tantamount to an unacceptable surrender, a defeat that will render the United States terribly imperiled. The mother’s mournful plea that we stay the course is premised on the sadly erroneous notion that “we’re making progress.”
I understand why they may be feeling the way they do: removal of troops in the absence of “victory” might be internalized by them that their losses were all for naught, that they were made dupes and fools. Regardless they were not, nor are they now, it is easy to grasp how they might succumb to the feeling they were, and as such they permitted themselves to be exploited.
That strikes at the core of personal identity, to the very core of self-esteem, to the very core of self worth. Of course they are vulnerable. In their shoes all of us would be. And to exploit those in that condition — for financial or political gain, which are the only imaginable provocations for the ads — knowing full well they are vulnerable . . . can the mind conjure anything more despicable?
Of course, not all who have sustained such loss felt the same about the issue that was the germinal cause of the loss prior to it nor do they feel the same afterwards. Nonetheless, emotionally and psychologically, the sense of the loss is in direct relationship with the sensed return on the investment made. While the numbers certainly have been less than in World War II, for example, to the individuals and families who have paid the prices exacted by Iraq the price was 100% equal; a death or dismemberment of a loved one is a death or dismemberment of a loved one. Where or when or in concert with how many others makes no difference.
All that may have made the paying at least a little more sufferable during WWII was the cause, which everyone understood as a requisite to our very national survival. Sad. Tragic. But from the onset, everyone knew that the fight against those who attacked us would demand that a great many someones would pay an exorbitant price.
Except for the loss of life and limb to the individual and family, Iraq is different in every way. Iraq as a casus belli was concocted of a surfeit of deliberate lies. Granted that Saddam Husein was as brutal a despot as has trod the earth, among the misdeeds he neither engaged nor had he the capacity to engage, however was to threaten in any fashion, form or extent the United States of America. And not only was the administration’s and most of the GOP’s presentation a cruel ruse long in the scripting, the “on the cheap” military execution was from the git-go shot through with deception, and self delusion.
There are two cruel truths that now attach to every limb and life and dollar spent. One is that all were for no good reason. They bought nothing of value. Indeed, we are poorer off today in every regard. Our military is spent; broken — by 5 recent, independent reports (Jones Commission, Iraq Reconstruction IG’s, the NIE, GAO’s, and even the Petraeus/Crocker Report), we have not a single unit combat ready to meet a contingency anywhere and Iraq has made us not a pint of blood safer. The second truth, again by the recent testimony of general after general, commission after commission, ambassador after expert, is that no number of American boots on the ground in Iraq for any given amount of time will make any difference whatsoever.
The Republican senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel, himself a Vietnam vet, beseeched and bedeviled Petraeus and Crocker during the September 11 Senate Armed Forces Hearing. “I’d say to you Ambassador, when you say if we’re not careful we’re going to see Iraq devolve into a civil war . . . C’mon! Our national intelligence report said we’re in a civil war, but you said that this morning. You gave us a great inventory of what a bloody brutal dictator Saddam was. We know that, that’s not the issue here!
“Are we gonna continue to invest American blood & treasure at the same rate we’re doing now? FOR WHAT? The president said ‘let’s buy time.’ BUY TIME? FOR WHAT? “That’s the core issue in Iraq.”
It would be unjustified and callous to blame those in the ads for expressing their heartfelt emotions. Not only have they a constitutional right to express their views, more than 98.9777% of their American neighbors, they paid for the right with the most excruciating pain and with the most precious blood.
Rather, to the sponsors of the ads . . . I can think of no corner in the most gruesome depths of hell I would not damn them to.— Ed Tubbs