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Many of those preaching at American church services Sunday extolled as "heroes" the 30 American and eight Afghan troops killed Saturday west of Kabul, when a helicopter on a night mission crashed, apparently after taking fire from Taliban forces. This week, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) can be expected to beat a steady drumbeat of "they shall not have died in vain."
But they did. I know it is a hard truth, but they did die in vain.
As in the past, churches across the country will keep praising the fallen troops for protecting "our way of life," and few can demur, given the tragic circumstances.
But, sadly, such accolades are, at best, misguided -- at worst, dishonest. Most preachers do not have a clue as to what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan and why. Many prefer not to think about it. There are some who do know better, but virtually all in that category eventually opt to punt.
Should we fault the preachers as they reach for words designed to give comfort to those in their congregations mourning the deaths of so many young troops? As hard as it might seem, I believe we can do no other than fault -- and confront -- them. However well meaning their intentions, their negligence and timidity in confronting basic war issues merely help to perpetuate unnecessary killing. It is high time to hold preachers accountable.
Many preachers are alert and open enough to see through the propaganda for perpetual war. But most will not take the risk of offending their flock with unpalatable truth. Better not to risk protests from the super-patriots -- many of them with deep pockets -- in the pews. And better to avoid, at all costs, offending the loved ones of those who have been killed -- loved ones who can hardly be faulted for trying desperately to find some meaning in the snuffing out of young lives.
Best to Just Praise and Pray
Far better to pray for those already killed and those who, in the future, will "give the last full measure of devotion to our country." In sum, by and large, American preachers are afraid to tell the truth. They lack the virtue that Thomas Aquinas taught is the foundation of all virtue -- courage. Aquinas wrote (to translate into the vernacular) that all other virtue is specious if you have no guts.
Writer James Hollingsworth hit the nail on the head: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Like the truth.
Those who often seem to ache the most in the face of unnecessary death are mothers. Many mothers do summon the courage to say -- and say loudly -- "ENOUGH! Yes, my son (or daughter) died for no good purpose." They are strong enough to acknowledge, painfully but honestly. He (she) did die in vain. Now we must all deal with it. Stop the false patriotism. And, most important, stop the killing.
Cindy Sheehan, whose 25 year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, is one such mother. She and others have tried to put a dent into the strange logic that attempts to translate unnecessary death into justification for still more unnecessary death. But they get little air or ink in the Fawning Corporate Media. Rather, what you will hear in the days ahead from the FCM is well-honed rhetoric not only about how our troops "cannot have died in vain," but also that Americans must now redouble our resolve to "honor their sacrifice."
President Barack Obama set the tone on Saturday -- "We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values they embodied."
Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, also primed the pump for the FCM, saying Saturday, "All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom."
And Joint Chiefs Chairman went even further in professing to know "what our fallen would have wanted" us to do -- namely, "keep fighting." Mullen added that, "it is certainly what we are going to do."
All this was duly reported in Sunday's Washington Post and other leading U.S. newspapers -- without much comment.