In old graveyards, you will find a disproportionate number of small sunken graves marked by mossy stone lambs inscribed: "Our Darling Baby-Asleep in Jesus." Infant mortality was high in generations past, when diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, and polio all took their toll. One by one these diseases have been eradicated or contained due to vaccines, better health practices, and good nutrition.
But there's the dichotomy: We nurture our young, feed them Wheaties and orange juice. We put braces on their teeth, Nikes and Reeboks on their feet, Levis on their bodies. Piano lessons, ballet, Little League and soccer follow all the things we didn't have while we were growing up. We love them, pamper them, and have them immunized against the many diseases that laid their little counterparts in early graves marked "Our Darling Baby."
Then, after all that loving care, the majority stands idly by waving Old Glory as our boys and girls march off to war. What do we have to show for our early gains in infant mortality except bigger and longer graves? At this late date I don't question our involvement in World War II. I'm convinced that Hitler was a monster who had to be stopped, and that we, as a country, had what it took (and used it without stinting) to stop him. (In retrospect, Saddam was a piker compared to Hitler.)
But war is not glamorous. Not then, and not now. War is a bloody business, and this war in Iraq particularly gruesome in its savagery so many deaths of innocents; the sight of bleeding, mangled bodies, burning cars and tanks, and the wanton destruction of whole towns and cities. War is heartbreak, grieving families on both sides of the fray, with all the attendant grief, divorce, poverty, and fatherless and motherless children following its cataclysmic wake.
The first concentrated opposition to war came with Vietnam, when many of us got the uneasy feeling that something was not quite right. And it wasn't. As in this Iraqi war, there were lies and deception, and we paid and are still paying for our involvement in Vietnam. We have lived to see our dissent justified by Robert McNamara's admission of culpability. But in purging his soul, he didn't go far enough. He needed to get down on his knees and apologize to every parent who had lost a son or daughter in Vietnam. And we should require the same from Bush, Cheney, and especially Rumsfeld who has so arrogantly disregarded the advice of the generals and admirals who know the business of war.
George Bush, brash and cocky to the end, with his two old sidekicks Rumsfeld and Cheney, have merely confirmed for me that old men map out the details (not very well, in this case) then send out the young to do their dirty work and to die for their elders' errors/lack of judgment/or good sense.
These are our children we loved and nourished. They live (most of them; although the dead now number in the thousands.) They are not the inhabitants of a lonely grave marked: "Our Darling Baby-Asleep in Jesus." They are grown up now, engaged in a battle for their survival. Are they on their own, or have we abandoned them? They still need our protection that this administration seems unprepared to give. To the mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters of our troops: Speak up, if you believe we are on the wrong track in Iraq. It is your duty and it is mine.