What is Andrew Bacevich’s Son’s Life Worth?

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Or any of our sons? or daughters? on any side of this incredibly reckless escapade in Iraq?
Boston University Professor Andrew J. Bacevich is a brave, thoughtful public intellectual who has tried — in reserved, serious terms — to challenge the legitimacy of the Iraq War. He has been one of the most articulate leading thinkers among military-policy dissident conservatives who have exposed the inanity of this war and the damage it has done. He authored the critically-acclaimed book, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.
Now his son by the same name who was serving in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom is dead — announced today by the Department of Defense:

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
1st Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich, 27, of Walpole, Mass., died May 13 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat patrol operations in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq.He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

bacevich.jpgTo get some insight into the pain Professor Bacevich, who teaches at Boston University, must now feel, read this clip from a moving and important article he wrote titled “What’s an Iraqi Life Worth?” [Washington Post, 9 July 2006]:

As the war enters its fourth year, how many innocent Iraqis have died at American hands, not as a result of Haditha-like massacres but because of accidents and errors? The military doesn’t know and, until recently, has publicly professed no interest in knowing. Estimates range considerably, but the number almost certainly runs in the tens of thousands. Even granting the common antiwar bias of those who track the Iraqi death toll — and granting, too, that the insurgents have far more blood on their hands — there is no question that the number of Iraqi noncombatants killed by U.S. forces exceeds by an order of magnitude the number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action, which is now more than 2,000.
Who bears responsibility for these Iraqi deaths? The young soldiers pulling the triggers? The commanders who establish rules of engagement that privilege “force protection” over any obligation to protect innocent life? The intellectually bankrupt policymakers who sent U.S. forces into Iraq in the first place and now see no choice but to press on? The culture that, to put it mildly, has sought neither to understand nor to empathize with people in the Arab or Islamic worlds?
There are no easy answers, but one at least ought to acknowledge that in launching a war advertised as a high-minded expression of U.S. idealism, we have waded into a swamp of moral ambiguity. To assert that “stuff happens,” as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is wont to do whenever events go awry, simply does not suffice.
Moral questions aside, the toll of Iraqi noncombatant casualties has widespread political implications. Misdirected violence alienates those we are claiming to protect. It plays into the hands of the insurgents, advancing their cause and undercutting our own. It fatally undermines the campaign to win hearts and minds, suggesting to Iraqis and Americans alike that Iraqi civilians — and perhaps Arabs and Muslims more generally — are expendable. Certainly, Nahiba Husayif Jassim’s death helped clarify her brother’s perspective on the war. “God take revenge on the Americans and those who brought them here,” he declared after the incident. “They have no regard for our lives.”
He was being unfair, of course. It’s not that we have no regard for Iraqi lives; it’s just that we have much less regard for them. The current reparations policy — the payment offered in those instances in which U.S. forces do own up to killing an Iraq civilian — makes the point. The insurance payout to the beneficiaries of an American soldier who dies in the line of duty is $400,000, while in the eyes of the U.S. government, a dead Iraqi civilian is reportedly worth up to $2,500 in condolence payments — about the price of a decent plasma-screen TV.
For all the talk of Iraq being a sovereign nation, foreign occupiers are the ones deciding what an Iraqi life is worth. And although President Bush has remarked in a different context that “every human life is a precious gift of matchless value,” our actions in Iraq continue to convey the impression that civilian lives aren’t worth all that much.
That impression urgently needs to change. To start, the Pentagon must get over its aversion to counting all bodies. It needs to measure in painstaking detail — and publicly — the mayhem we are causing as a byproduct of what we call liberation. To do otherwise, to shrug off the death of Nahiba Husayif Jassim as just one of those things that happens in war, only reinforces the impression that Americans view Iraqis as less than fully human. Unless we demonstrate by our actions that we value their lives as much as the lives of our own troops, our failure is certain.

Now we must add to the count of this tragic conflict another American son — and of course, more Iraqi sons and daughters and American daughters.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Bacevich at the home of former Congressman Dave McCurdy this last holiday season. We spoke for a bit about the Iraq war as well as the absence of American strategy and dearth of strategists in government today. I had no idea his son was serving until now.
But this young man did serve his nation — but his death is so incredibly tragic, like the others — but his even more because his well-respected father has been working hard to end this horrible, self-damaging crusade. It’s incredibly sad.
To answer my own question above. Andrew Bacevich’s son’s life was precious — and his life and his untimely death matter greatly for just waking up and realizing we are achieving nothing in Iraq today and that responsibility must be borne by the perpetrators of this mess.
My sincere condolences to the Bacevich family.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

61 comments on “What is Andrew Bacevich’s Son’s Life Worth?

  1. Colton Jones says:

    I appologize, in my haste I may have ommitted a few words. The last sentance of the first paragraph requires after the word “…before…” it should read as follows, “…comiting themselves to any action that may be required.”
    In the last line of the second paragraph the first “that” should be a “the.”
    In the third paragraph the word “suggests” should be inserted after the word “means”
    Sorry for the inconvience.

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  2. Colton Jones says:

    Please, if you would, consider the position of America as a superpower (or former superpower if this proves to be your belief) and the position the world has placed it in. Europeans have downsized and downsized their millitaries and their respective Millitary budgets. Totalitarion leaders, regardless of their affiliations with the U.S.A., continue to increase their private millitaries and power. When these forces are put to use against their own nations, as evidenced in Darfur, the world cries out in sympathy for those that have been forced into a state of grieving. Many European nations shake their fists at Americans, thinking that it is our duty as the champion of the West to police the world. After a half century of such, we ourselves have come to believe that we have been divinely appointed the world’s keepers, and have fallen into such a baseless dream. We see a potential problem, and as only America can, step into affairs that are not our own with our misguided sense of responsibility, buckling under the peer pressure of our fellow nations. Then we are scolded by those same nations, and rejected, for they did not sanction any specific preemptive measures, and prefer to watch the innocents die before any action may be required.
    I have grown up in an American family, I am proud to say I am an American, and thus I refuse to wait to burn my hand before I accept the fact that the stove is hot, I refuse to slip and break my body before I acknowledge the fact that I should not run around the pool, and I down-right REFUSE to accept that thousands of families will be torn apart before the political leaders of this world accept that fact that there is a problem.
    In retrospect, the war was handled poorly. That by no means that the war was unjustified, and that our young men and women’s lives have been wasted in vain.
    God Bless America, because only God could get us out of the situation we find ourselves mired in.

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  3. Dennis says:

    I wonder if Bushes children serve in the army and die in Iraq? No, they go to college and marry rich men. Did Chelsea fight in Somalia? No, she went to Stanford and Oxford. Does Cheyney’s daughter fight? No, she lives with her lezzie girlfriend. Bush dodged Vietnam in ROTC, Clinton in Britain or Canada, Cheyney — I do not know where. All those should be seized and put on trial for what they do to America.
    I watched Bacevich interview on public TV; I am very sorry about his son. I wish our leaders loved America at least half as much as he does.

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  4. Stephen K. Trynosky Sr. says:

    My heart goes out to Dr./Col. Basevich. In the past he has been incredibly kind to my son, Stephen. Though I never met him, I feel he is a friend.
    We are currently mired in another mess like Viet-Nam caused by politicians with a Wilsonian flair who have no knowledge of history and are incapable of acknowledging mistakes.
    When I said mired, I mean that. Withdrawl is not a choice.In fact the current mess is worse than Viet-Nam in that there is no Hanoi government to take over. As a political conservative who felt in the ’60’s, right war, right place, right time, wrong way I never thought that I’d have to say that again. I am therefore on the outs with the true believing right as well as the left.
    Several months ago, the Discovery Channel did a piece on the Soviet experience in Afganistan. The last few minutes were with a Russian Colonel. The interview was done in 1999, pre 9/11. His final comments, tongue in cheek, had to do with the Soviet precipitious withdrawl. While I can’t give an exact quote, the gist was, “well, that really worked out well, didn’t it?” If anything Iraq would be worse.
    Acknowledging for a minute that President Bush and his team are less than stellar, a lot less, the problem, we as Americans now face is: What do we have to do to win this thing? Everybody has to jump on board. Withdrawl, redeployment or outright surrender cannot be options. Their consequences will be catastrophic. No amount of wishful thinking will change that. So, if you are left or right, Republican or Democrat, take off the rose colored glasses, hitch up your belt and add something positive and realistic to the discussion. If you don’t have a solution, grounded in reality which takes into account five years down the pike, keep your mouth shut. It’s going to be painful and it’s going to call for something the President hasn’t called for, sacrifice. God willing, it won’t be what the Basevich family has given, but it will be substantial. If we don’t, twenty years from now, when I’m in my 80’s, I will be offering up my grandchildren for the next unthoughtout, doomed to fail policy.
    In OCS, they used to say, lead, follow or get the hell out of the way. What is sorely lacking today is leadership. The American people need to know the facts, from both sides, and they need to know the real consequences of those facts to them, their children and their children’s children.

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  5. LanceThruster says:

    I had written Dr. Bacevich in 2005 after seeing an excellent lecture by him for the Cato Institute on C-SPAN. His response was quite warm and generous. The gist of his presentation was the overuse and misuse of the military option and the unequal burden military families bear under the current system.
    I am at a loss for words over the death of his son.

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  6. MP says:

    Hmmm. Let’s go back to your original statement, shall we:
    POA: “Are we going to expend American lives and treasure, once more, as cannon fodder for an Israeli agenda premised on lies and exageration?”
    The CLEAR suggestion here is that American lives and treasure was expended for an ISRAELI agenda. Not an AMERICAN agenda. Not a BRITISH agenda, who, after all, were gung-ho and sent troops and made statements like “45 minutes.” TONS of folks were on board for this, but the only thing we hear from you is Israel, Israel, Israel.
    Elsewhere you wonder how many unsuspecting American folk are reading the AIPAC site and being scared into a war with Iran. My answer: About .00000001% of the American public, if that, read the AIPAC site.
    Then there is the lame story about the dancing Israelis and how maybe…you think?…the Israelis coulda done it. And then the whole ball of wax would be neatly tied up and off-shored. No REAL Americans involved.
    And then, of course, you start your discussion of women’s rights in Iraq pre-1991 by copping a little damn-the-Israelis feel: The terrible refugee problem in Iraq is almost as big as, guess what? Rwanda? No. Darfur? No. It’s those damn Israelis again.
    An Arab leader could slaughter half his people and you’d be praising his ability to make the trains run on time…and work in the fact that he studied Tel Aviv U.
    For you, all roads lead to Jerusalem. I find it obvious.

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  7. Scott says:

    In NYTimes, a story on the Bacevich family, including quotes from the daughter/sister….
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/us/16prof.html
    (if that link doesn’t work, try:)
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/051607T.shtml

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  8. Pissed Off American says:

    “Your overwhelming desire to pin the Iraq war on Israel is the real BS here and yet you continue with it. I guess it’s too hard to swallow that it wasn’t some foreign power that conned the US into doing what it did.”
    Quite frankly, MP, you are full of crap, constantly, and without pause. (Except weekends.)
    The MAJORITY of my posting here has to do with wanting the Bush Administration to be held accountable for its deceptions in regards to Iraq. It is quite a stretch, in fact it is a LIE, to state or imply that I have an “overwhelming desire to pin the Iraq war on Israel”. At NO TIME have I implied or stated that Israel alone is culpable for conning the White House and the neo-cons into invading Iraq. I have ALWAYS presented Israel as complicit and in partnership with this administration. Israel was a willing participant, an actual partner, in the propaganda campaign that preceded the invasion of Iraq. This has been my view all along, and I have made that quite clear in over 80% of my posting.
    But once again, you drag out your bale of straw, and start misrepresenting my arguments and my assertions. The ONLY WAY you seem to be able to debate is through the misrepresentation of other people’s comments and viewpoints. Frankly, it is really a chickenshit tactic, and you use it constantly. If you are not stating pure unadulterated horseshit about the topic at hand, one can be assured that you are stating pure unadulterated horseshit about someone else’s comments about the topic at hand.
    Heres the deal, MP, only a damned fool would contend that Israel assisted in the massive propaganda campaign that preceded the invasion of Iraq, yet then state the Israeli agenda was not the reason they did so. Such an argument is patently ridiculous. And the the idiocy of such an individual is further underscored by their denial that such parallel campaigns of propaganda, such as Israel’s and the Bush Administration’s, were not an act of collusion between the two, PARTICULARLY considering the loyalties of these God damned liars and Israel loyalists such as Wolfowitz, Perle, Zakhiem, Etc..

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  9. Pissed Off American says:

    Furthermore, MP, using your “logic”, the current efforts AIPAC is expending to exagerate and lie about the nuclear capabilities of Iran has nothing to do with Israel’s agenda. Have I got your surreal reasoning correct?

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  10. Pissed Off American says:

    “I also recognize that it was an American agenda and a decision made my Americans, largely in pursuit of oil. The fact that Israel was cheerleader and urged us on doesn’t detract from that basic fact.”
    ROFLMAO!!!! Yeah right, MP. Israel helped sell the invasion of Iraq, but it had nothing to do with their agenda.
    Do you even think about your silly bullshit before it leaves your keyboard?

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  11. Tony says:

    20 minute clip from inside Sadr City. This is from BBC Newsnight on 15.5. Powerful footage.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6650000/newsid_6658900/6658981.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm

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  12. MP says:

    POA writes: “…you still refused to recognize Israel’s role in helping to incite the American people into accepting an invasion of Iraq.”
    No; I don’t. I do recognize it. I also recognize that it was an American agenda and a decision made my Americans, largely in pursuit of oil. The fact that Israel was cheerleader and urged us on doesn’t detract from that basic fact. It was also a British agenda and a British decision.
    Your overwhelming desire to pin the Iraq war on Israel is the real BS here and yet you continue with it. I guess it’s too hard to swallow that it wasn’t some foreign power that conned the US into doing what it did. We did it. Period.

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  13. Pissed Off American says:

    “That was an AMERICAN agenda.”
    Posted by MP
    MP, we’ve been through this before. Even after link after link was provided to you proving that Israel participated in the exageration of Iraq’s threat to the United States, as well as actual quotations of Israeli leaders imploring us to attack Iraq “sooner rather than later”, you still refused to recognize Israel’s role in helping to incite the American people into accepting an invasion of Iraq. And now, we see you being completely silent as the LIES AND EXAGERATIONS posted on the AIPAC website are exposed. Its laughable. You’re a one trick pony, MP. It seems all you can do is support the entities and organizations you claim to oppose.
    In short, you’re full of BS. Irrefutably, and constantly.

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  14. MP says:

    POA writes: “Are we going to expend American lives and treasure, once more, as cannon fodder for an Israeli agenda premised on lies and exageration?”
    That was an AMERICAN agenda.

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  15. Peter Attwood says:

    In the first place, soldiers in Iraq aren’t fighting for anyone’s freedoms – not those of those they are there to oppress, slaughter, and torture so as to set up an obedient colonial regime to do the empire’s bidding, and not the freedoms of Americans, whose only hope of retaining some fredom is disaster in Iraq, which is what rescues nations such as Greece in 1974, Argentina in 1981, and Japan and Germany in WW2 from the kind of virulent nationalism at work in the US today. Success in Iraq can only consolidate American militarism. If only a few American soldiers were dead and wounded in Iraq, they could kill 4 or 5 million people and turn the country into a radioactive desert and the war would still be popular, whereas a helicopter a day and 50 a week would have had them out of there alreqady and saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
    Certainly the grunts are less guilty than those who send them. But torturers and murders of countless innocent people are not heroes. And I don’t want to hear about how they have to go there. They don’t.
    It takes some courage and willingness to suffer consequences, as a few like Ehren Watada have done, but how can you honor soldiers for their courage on the one hand and give them a pass on the cowardice that leads them to just follow orders on the other – a defense rejected at Nuremburg foremost by the American judge, and also even in American military law, as Watada has pointed out?
    We can’t determine whether we will die, but is it not the duty of all to make sure not to die in a dishonorable cause? And if we choose dishonor in order to fit in, both death and dishonor may well find us – like Herod’s soldiers who guarded the apostle Peter and wound up being tortured and led away by Herod whom they served in dishonor.
    It’s bad enough to die in an honorable cause. We are reminded here how comfortless it can be to serve and die in a dishonorable cause. That is the identity between American soldiers being killed in a filthy colonial war and the young Germans who fought for Hitler, who mostly were no worse human beings than the equally deluded young Americans in this case – and whose deaths were equally meaningless.

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  16. semper fubar says:

    I hope you are wrong POA. I’m afraid you are probably right.

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  17. Pissed Off American says:

    “Today I think a draft couldn’t happen politically – too many people are finally sickened by this horrifying military adventure. But it kept me up nights for a while.”
    You’re dreaming, a draft CAN happen, and might. All it would take is another 9/11 type event, blamed on Iran, or “Al Qaeda” boogiemen “based” in Iraq. Look how far Bush’s first “trifecta” got him. It is time to open our eyes wide, and fully digest the events of the last six years. Any such effort at honest historical reflection should dispel any doubts we may have that the Bush/Cheney team, are not capable, or not evil enough, to design and execute just such a scenario.

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  18. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, meanwhile, with Iran in the sights of Bush and the Israelis, (where they can throw away the lives of even more of our soldiers), the AIPAC website continues to carry pure unadulterated propaganda on its website. After removing this weekend’s lead article, that was a blatant and irrefutable LIE, they are now up to further propagandizing. Note the wording on their current lead article….
    “IAEA: Iranian Nuclear Progress Faster Than Expected”
    “Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said Iran has made alarming nuclear progress.”
    “The International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that Iran has overcome technological hurdles to developing nuclear weapons and is now beginning to enrich uranium — which can serve as fuel for an atomic bomb — on a much larger scale than before, The New York Times reported.”
    Continues at….
    http://www.aipac.org/
    Well, if one actually READS the NYT’s article, one will find the part that the AIPAC propagandists don’t inform us about….
    “The material produced so far would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be transformed into bomb-grade material. To accomplish that, Iran would likely first have to evict the I.A.E.A. inspectors, as North Korea did four years ago.”
    “Even then, it is unclear whether the Iranians have the technology to produce a weapon small enough to fit atop their missiles, a significant engineering challenge.”
    Excerpted from….
    http://tinyurl.com/2hnzck
    So, why are we allowing an organization that represents the interests of a foriegn nation spread lies and propaganda that is designed to frighten and intimidate the American public into believing that Iran poses an immediate threat?
    Didn’t we learn our lesson when they pulled the same shit about Iraq? Are we going to expend American lives and treasure, once more, as cannon fodder for an Israeli agenda premised on lies and exageration?

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  19. Chesire11 says:

    “I’m so f****ing sick of war and its cheerleaders.”
    Amen.

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  20. semper fubar says:

    Thanks for your response scott. Yes, my words were harsh and not very kind or sympathetic, and I do have tremendous respect for a man like Bacevich who spoke so eloquently against this abhorrent war.
    I’m just so angry that our whole culture is geared towards glorifying and honoring miltary service — in service to what, I ask?
    I also have children of recruiting age, and for the last few years I was terrified that they would re-institute a draft and take my own precious kids. (All kids are, after all, precious to their parents, as I know your son is to you, and I know Andrew Bacevich is to his father) Mr Fubar, a vietnam vet who found himself facing the same awful problem in 1968, and I had many long discussions about how we would counsel our kids if that happened. Going willfully wasn’t my top option. Of course, we also talked about the fact that ultimately it would be our kids’ decision, not ours, because that’s how 20+year-olds are. Today I think a draft couldn’t happen politically – too many people are finally sickened by this horrifying military adventure. But it kept me up nights for a while.
    I always think of Madeleine Albright’s infamous words to Colin Powell (I believe) to the effect of “what good is having the best military in the world if you don’t ever use it?” That disgusts me.
    I apologize that my reaction was hurtful. I’m so f****ing sick of war and its cheerleaders.

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  21. scott h says:

    I hasten to add here that I feel uncomfortable even writing on this subject here…. It seems unseemly for us to be having this discussion about an eloquent war critic and the choices his now departed son may have made. Peace to them….
    Yet I am reminded again that so many, if not most, of the key decision-makers in our national war machine manage to keep their kids (if they have any) far away from US military service. “Chicken-hawks” still seems the apt appelation; it’s so much easier to send other people’s kids off to fight “proxy wars”…

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  22. Scott H. says:

    To Fubar, I have a hunch that we may share many vantage points on the matter here. I too am sickened by the glorification of military service in our media, esp. since 9/11, the insidious recruitment tactics being used in our schools, and even the omnipresent “war is cool” mentality in the computer games so popular with our young.
    Anybody watch that current “You made them strong; we’ll make them Army strong” — ??? Strong to do what, pray tell? Heaven help the parent who gets the call from the local school based recruiter who wants to talk to your son or daughter…. and if you object, get ready for all sorts of pscyhological guilt trip rubbish from quota-driven recruiters…. I have two more sons, and I raised a “ruckus” with my local schools to try to keep the recruiter vultures away from them — even at the risk of getting “black-listed” as “unpatriotic” — which my late West-Pointer father would have howled at….)
    By the way, that movie “300” (as historically outrageous as it is) didn’t come out of nowhere in my view. Even the neocon media was able to call that spade for what it was — a trashy call to more war (this time with Persia/Iran)
    This isn’t just about male “testosterone.” Our (allegedly) non-fiction bestseller lists over the past few years have been dominated by super-hyped “captive women” bestsellers (e.g., dozens of neocon backed books from “Not w/o My Daughter to “Reading Lolita”) telling tall “tales” of the imprisoned, helpless female or entire society – in need of “liberation” — as if the sword would bring them any peace….
    As much as we may be in the same corner, my concern was with your original application of the broad brush about “those who volunteer” for military service — vs. those who volunteered specifically to serve in Iraq.

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  23. Chesire11 says:

    That should have read:
    “I also trust that you didn’t intend to infer that Lt. Bacevich’s was engaged in evil nor that his death was a just consequence of his service.”

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  24. Chesire11 says:

    Peter-
    Although I certainly agree with you that the American invasion of Iraq was no less criminal that the invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union, I hope the “shit happens” attitude towards the deaths of American servicemen and women doesn’t accurately reflect your sentiments. I also trust that you didn’t intend to infer that Lt. Bacevich’s death was engaged in evil not that his death was a just consequence of his service.
    Please forgive me if I’m being obtuse, but I’m afraid I’m not quite sure how to read the meaning of your post.

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  25. Ashamed says:

    Did you just compare this man to Nazi soldiers? Fighting for freedoms your countrymen deride as something “Iraqi’s don’t want” or “they are incapable of” is compared to a “genocidal enterprise”???!! Did you really use the word “evil” to describe something other than yourself or the majority of comments on this page???!!!
    Look in the mirror, because you lack a soul you will see nothing looking back.

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  26. Peter Attwood says:

    The American invasion of Iraq is no less criminal than the German invasion of Poland in 1939, or for that matter, its later invasion of the Soviet Union.
    It’s too bad about the German soldiers who died on the Eastern Front, but it is not unjust that their involvement in a criminal and genocidal enterprise cost them their lives sometimes, and not only those of the innocent people they were terrorizing and murdering on behalf of their imperial masters. If you don’t want to die a meaningless death in the service of evil, it’s best to refuse to do evil.

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  27. Chesire11 says:

    Matthew-
    I am not “invoking the ‘Glorious Dead’ to shut down debate,” nor do I suggest that we should hide from the ugly truths and choices forced upon us by this war. The morality of this ill-begotten war is not only a legitimate topic for debate, but, an urgent one, but there is such a thing as propriety. It is simply inappropriate and ghoulish to exploit a person’s dead child to illustrate a point.
    Semper Fubar asks if it is only appropriate to use the deaths of the nameless and faceless in making a case about the war. In a word, “yes.” Hundreds of thousands of lives have been wasted in a disastrous war built on hubris and lies, if that’s insufficient to craft a devastating case against the war and it’s architects, then brandishing “Jenkins’ Ear” will hardly suffice. It is nothing better than an exploitative exercise in demagoguery. We should talk about the cost of the war and we should remember that cost is measured out in hundreds of thousands of wasted and shattered lives, Iraqi and American. It is entirely fitting that we should extrapolate the magnitude of that cost from the tragedy of Lt. Bacevich’s loss, but it is simply crass and disrespectful to use peoples’ dead sons as political footballs.
    Likewise, the morality of military service in time of war is a legitimate subject for debate, but glibly debating the morality of a single soldier’s choice to serve, a soldier about whom we know nothing and who is incapable of speaking in his own defense is indecent.

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  28. Dave1-20-2009 says:

    DavidN et.al.
    Daily journals/blogs of deployed soldiers and others can be read here:
    http://gocomics.typepad.com/the_sandbox/

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  29. David N says:

    Condolences are appropriate to the families of all those lost in this horrible tragedy. The greater tragedy is that the American people have learned nothing; all they — according to the MSM — seem to be asking from the presidential candidates is that they have to sound “tough.”
    As if tough protects us, tough solves any problems, tough does anyone any good. Given a choice, I’d take smart. Still waiting for that one.
    But to change the subject. Yesterday morning, I’m watching the NBC News report on the soldiers who were kidnapped in Iraq. The reporter — or rather the person reading what passes these days for a news report — stated that the soldiers were in a patrol out “looking for IED’s”!!!!!
    Am I the only person out there who finds that statement odd? Is it really true that one major mission of our soldiers in this mess is to drive around waiting to get blown apart? Have the poltical leaders really so badly torn apart our military, and tossed aside any rational leadership in the military, to the extent that this is what passes for tactics, let alone strategy?
    Just wondering. I’m not, after all, someone worth paying attention to.

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  30. roublen says:

    I think Prof. Bacevich’s editorial is one the most honorable and humane pieces I have read on the Iraq war, and one that points to changes we must make for a better future.
    With the loss of people like Lt. Bacevich, and Pat Tillman and Marla Ruzicka, it sometimes feels like we’ve lost our very best people. Well, we must remember and honor them, look to them for inspiration, and pursue things worthy of their sacrifice.
    To the Bacevich family,
    heartfelt condolences for the passing of your son, may he RIP.

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  31. semper fubar says:

    (Upon re-reading, I think my last post was unclear – the last sentence was in overall response to Chesire11’s comment, not in response the quote I pulled from Bacevich’s article.)

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  32. semper fubar says:

    “Using the death of somebody’s child as a context in which to make a political argument is pretty cretinous. Debating the morality of Lt. Bacevich’s service is in very poor taste, in my opinion.”
    But aren’t we using the deaths in this conflict as a pretext for making political arguments every day when we talk about the war? Or is it only acceptable when those deaths are anonymous? Or perhaps we should just not talk about it at all, and hope the whole mess just goes away. And why shouldn’t we debate the morality of Bacevich’s service?
    “Who bears responsibility for these Iraqi deaths? The young soldiers pulling the triggers? The commanders who establish rules of engagement that privilege “force protection” over any obligation to protect innocent life? The intellectually bankrupt policymakers who sent U.S. forces into Iraq in the first place and now see no choice but to press on? The culture that, to put it mildly, has sought neither to understand nor to empathize with people in the Arab or Islamic worlds?
    There are no easy answers…”
    It’s an ugly war, with ugly issues and no pretty answers. It’s long past time we stopped hiding behind words like “heroism” and “sacrifice” and “honor” and “patriotism” and faced up to some of them.

    Reply

  33. Matthew says:

    Chesire11: Invoking the “Glorious Dead” to shut down debate has a long pedigree. It was not legitimate tactic in the 1920s, and it is not legitimate tactic now.

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  34. Chesire11 says:

    Using the death of somebody’s child as a context in which to make a political argument is pretty cretinous. Debating the morality of Lt. Bacevich’s service is in very poor taste, in my opinion.

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  35. semper fubar says:

    Scott H – I am truly sorry that your son, apparently against your own good advice (judging from what you have written) has got himself caught up in this giant mess. And I do wish your family well and hope he comes home safely. But at what point do we stop glamorizing the military and military service? It seems to me this is why young men, in a moment of high emotion and patriotic fervor, become part of the madness our over-bloated military machine inflicts on the world. I wish it weren’t so. It seems like such a terrible waste. Why does a young man with everything ahead of him like Andrew Bacevich feel he should offer his life up to these criminals? Our culture relentlessly promotes the idea that military service is the highest patriotic ideal, and that all military personnel, no matter what they do or why or where, are heroes. It’s so ingrained in us at this point that we’re not allowed to even question the sanity (let alone the morality) of it, are we? So where does it end, and how?

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  36. Forgiven says:

    I feel for Andrew Bacevich and the tragic lost of his son. No parent should ever have to bury a child, but with that said we must begin to hold those people accountable who continue to send our young people into this mess.
    Discussing the Democratic approach on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS taped Tuesday, Mr. Bush was asked what evidence he had that a hard withdrawal date would have a negative impact in Iraq. “Just logic,” Mr. Bush replied. “I mean, you say we start moving troops out. Don’t you think an enemy is going to wait and adjust based upon an announced timetable of withdrawal?”
    Mr. Bush continues to use his “fuzzy” logic to justify a failed policy. This administration continues to use the same old tried and true slogans to bolster this policy that was doomed from the start. According to Mr. Cheney the legislation now being considered will guarantee defeat, no Mr. Cheney what has guaranteed the defeat is false justification of the war, insufficient troop levels, and no plan for reconstruction. And of course all of these factors are the Democrats fault. When will this administration finally step up and accept responsibility for something, anything?
    “What’s most troubling about Senator Reid’s comments yesterday is his defeatism,” said Mr. Cheney. “And the timetable legislation that he is now pursuing would guarantee defeat. Maybe it is a political calculation.”
    When are these guys going to get it? At what cost must we pay for their continuing to promote this delusional thinking? Are there a certain number of deaths we must hit, before it is acceptable to change strategies? If there is then who determines that number? We keep hearing that our support is not open ended, but every chance these two get they are saying just the opposite.
    Whether the government of Iraq releases figures or not the amount of human suffering cannot be denied. They can no more hide the toll on human life than Saddam Hussein could during his reign. The world needs to know how costly in human terms this situation is becoming in order to prepare for the massive job that is awaiting us. At some point the world will need to reach out and help these people heal and reconstruct their lives. These are not just facts and figures these are human beings worthy of life and dignity.
    Although no one really knows the exact number, everyone can agree that it has been a lot. I read a report the other day and it talked about how most Americans have a fairly accurate idea of the number of American war dead from the Iraqi invasion. However, when it comes to the number of Iraqi war dead there is a remarkable lack of awareness by the American public to the devastation that has been visited upon these people. Many in the world believe that we as Americans are unconcerned with the deaths of anyone who is not American or Jewish. That in our minds and opinions their lives are not as valuable. It is this belief that feeds a lot of the animosity directed towards us by other nations.
    I believe that all life has value. Each and every one of us is a unique creation of God and therefore of value to God. We should begin to express our outrage and concern for not only the American lives lost, but also the lives of any human being that is slaughtered throughout the world. It is easy to become overwhelmed and numb to the slaughter going on throughout the world. The images that are constantly being beamed to our televisions of carnage and inhumanity can cause one to become insensitive to the plight of others. They are over there and they are different from us, but does that make their lives any less valuable? Are they deserving of any less compassion because they don’t look like me or believe what I believe? I certainly hope not. We should be equally appalled wherever suffering is occurring. Of course it is human nature to care more about those who I identify closely with, but it doesn’t have to be an either or situation. There is enough compassion to go around for all suffering people.
    Let’s let the world know that we value all human life equally. We all share a kinship with one another that goes beyond borders and colors and politics.
    The view that Iraq will become a blood bath in our absence is a smoke screen for continued involvement. No one wants to acknowledge the failure of our policies. Will there be continued violence in Iraq? Yes there will be, but we have that now. No one can stop the internal struggle that the Iraqis have chosen to participate in. All we are doing is prolonging the inevitable struggle that must take place for the Iraqis to decide the character of their nation. It is up to them to decide what the definition of their country will be and unfortunately that is going to require some violence. We need to accept that fact and stop believing that we or anyone else can prevent it. Our only hope at this point is to contain it as much as possible. As long as we stay there in the capacity we now hold, we are only preventing them from doing those things that must be done to recreate their nation.
    Those who refuse to acknowledge these facts and want to continue to send our young men and women into the meat grinder that Iraq is becoming must and should be held accountable. We have become like the compulsive gambler that wants to continue spending “good money” after “bad”, hoping for that one big score to make everything right again. This administration is like the drug addict that believes against all evidence to the contrary that just one more pill, just one more hit will cure what ails him. We need to cut our losses and wait for the smoke to clear. At some point in the future we may be able to offer the Iraqis some reconstruction support, but this is not the time. Just as we had to decide the character of our nation during our civil war, the Iraqis must also do the same. We have opened this “Pandora’s Box” and there is no closing it. We must let those who want to continue to push this failed policy know that there is a cost. You cannot continue to knowingly maim and kill our kids. We must rise up and say enough is enough. Have you had enough?
    The Disputed Truth

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  37. Jim DeRosa says:

    This is a damn shame. In light of the Wolfowitz scandal and his classless response to The World Bank. This is even more painful, seeing him strut and curse as good men fall.

    Reply

  38. Pissed Off American says:

    Scott H…….
    Thank you for your words.

    Reply

  39. Scott H says:

    Thanks Steve for posting this awful news – and making the connections for us. However, I am aghast at Fubar’s ugly comments about why Lt. Bacevich would have “volunteered” for this war.
    What shameless spite — precisely why the anti-war movement so often loses friends among would-be supporters in the mainstream.
    I happen to be a Gulf-focused academic myself, have long opposed the grain of US Middle East policy, protested against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and worried over the likely next war with Iran — often publicly over at Helena Cobban’s web site. (www.justworldnews.com)
    Alas, my son too is about to be promoted from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant – in the Army National Guard. Before he was assigned to his current unit, that brigade had already been to Iraq once (got back less thant 2 years ago). And now they’re being quietly sent back in pieces — with many young officers being cherry-picked and re-assigned to other officer-poor units. (so much for Gates’ “promises” and the utter nonsense about deploying units that “trained together.”) My son (in unguarded moments) fears now that his luck may soon run out; never mind he and his first wife are expecting their first; the neocon agenda may soon be a callin’….
    So why did my son volunteer via ROTC in college – back in 2001? (I often lay awake at night wondering myself.)
    No doubt Fubar would remind me I failed as a father — didn’t do enough to innoculate him from the brainwashing of Faux News and the rest of the msm.
    On the other hand, think about 2001 context. Right after 9/11, the first thing my son, then a college freshman did was join the volunteer rescue squad…. The second thing he did (to my horror) was join the campus ROTC morning exercises — from there he got an ROTC scholarship. (and thereafter a steady dose of brainwashing from a gunnery sgt. who, to my fury, was so proud of having hosted always-wrong neocon high priest Bernard Lewis to speak…. I volunteered to speak, as I’d done there years ago – an offer then crassly ignored – even though I would have, in this case, happily volunteered my time.)
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Lt Bacevich was motivated to join in a similar post 9/11 context. I only hope that father and son were able to communicate better than my son and I have. Whether good or bad, I have a glimpse of the anguish that the Bacevich family must now be facing. God help them.
    Of course, the post 9/11 fear was partly the key devise by which the neocon Bushistas made their case to invade Iraq…. but that was two years later after so many had “signed up” for ROTC….
    My son now desperately wants to believe that Faux News hasn’t been lying to him all these years, that his “duly elected” leaders wouldn’t send him on a fool’s errand, that they really aren’t the hacks, trolls, and liars his pathetic father makes them out to be….
    That’s part of the reason I am an early supporter of James Webb (our Senator from Virginia) for President — from one angry father of a service man to another. May Webb’s lot increase – even as he is frontally taking on “the lobby.”
    But however much I loathe the current administration and the neocons, I have even less patience for someone taking potshot cracks at the motives of those servicemen and officers who died…. Blame our leaders, not the victims.
    I’m with Helena then; support the troops and bring them home!

    Reply

  40. Dan says:

    Those who are to be held accountable will some day. It’s just sad that so many Americans still give them the glory they sought. Evil times, man.

    Reply

  41. semper fubar says:

    “No, they don’t! The American Media who who propagandized for these cowardly lying sacks of shit and American citizens who voted these cowardly lying sacks of shit bear responsibility for of all the Andrew Baceviches out there.” — DonQ
    Hard to disagree with that as well. It seems impossible to believe that everyone who brought this about will be held accountable. But I’d be happy just to see the top people put on trial. Not that I think that will really ever happen, sadly.

    Reply

  42. Frank says:

    Bush surely must know that there will be civil movements throughout the world wanting justice to be served for the evil this administration has foisted on the world after he leaves office. Else the Nuremberg trials served no historic purpose.

    Reply

  43. ken melvin says:

    Cindy was right.

    Reply

  44. Don Quijote says:

    “But I do agree with your point about holding these criminals running our government accountable. They bear the resonsibility for this disaster, and they bear responsibility for the deaths of all the Andrew Baceviches out there.”
    No, they don’t! The American Media who who propagandized for these cowardly lying sacks of shit and American citizens who voted these cowardly lying sacks of shit bear responsibility for of all the Andrew Baceviches out there.

    Reply

  45. semper fubar says:

    “When one chooses to serve in the military, they do not get to pick and choose their wars. ” — POA
    Exactly. And given our track record over recent decades, why would any volunteer think that they would NOT be asked to serve in some highly suspect, and probably immoral military adventure? But perhaps you and I disagree on what “patriotism” means.
    But I do agree with your point about holding these criminals running our government accountable. They bear the resonsibility for this disaster, and they bear responsibility for the deaths of all the Andrew Baceviches out there.

    Reply

  46. Carroll says:

    Well I am glad to see Steve get his dander up a bit on this…but agree he could go even stronger…something like “punishment” where it concerns the war mongers would be more appropiate.
    But who will punish them?…the politicans running our goverment?…I don’t think so…they are the quintessential “don’t ask, don’t tell, move on, bygones be bygones, mispoke, mistaken, honest difference of opinion” whining sleazy whores of the world oldest profession.
    The longer this goes on the more “radical’ I get…I am for our country getting some kind of huge thumping slap right in the face, one that reaches all the way up and down and shakes this society to it’s roots because evidently that is what it is going to take to make the citizens clean up this place.

    Reply

  47. ... says:

    steve thanks for your thoughtful and considerate article. it is indeed sad how many lives are being lost at present due to this unnecessary war this person included. i do think bush and company need to be held accountable, but i also think the democrats are spineless and unwilling to challenge them with any conviction where it really matters. all the political types seem unwilling to call a spade a spade for fear of losing their patronage, or financial support.. i would like to think you are different but i have never seen you use strong words to address this, perhaps due your inclination towards diplomacy.. at this point in time diplomacy seems of little value when we are dealing with a group of crooked individuals who also happen to run the biggest military establishment on the planet.. this includes the democrats as far as i am concerned.. unless someone calls for accountability in the form of impeachment and trail for war crimes, all the political pundits including both parties jeprodize what little integrity they have left..

    Reply

  48. Carroll says:

    Posted by Sandy at May 15, 2007 12:43 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>
    Condolences to you too.

    Reply

  49. Sandy says:

    Our 27 year-old son died a few years ago. He was our only child. We know the pain these people are feeling now. Excruciating.
    May the young solider rest in peace.
    My condolences to his family.

    Reply

  50. Carroll says:

    Posted by semper fubar at May 14, 2007 07:41 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I have to agree with POA.
    But also you in some respects…this war like Vietnam was pointless and political. BUT…a lot, not all, but a lot, of men and now women, particulary the young, do see themselves as serving a higher cause or defending freedom…yes.. they were taken in and lied to, but that doesn’t diminish their bravery or what they thought was their responsibility to their country.
    It’s beyond sad and tragic, it’s criminal, and the ones responsible for both the American and Iraqi deaths should pay…so blame the right people not the soliders.

    Reply

  51. Pissed Off American says:

    BTW, I see the AIPAC website has removed the fictitious lead article that ran this weekend, (and this morning), claiming that Iran had blocked the IAEA inspection team from inspecting the Natanz facility. (The IAEA has stepped forward and clarified that such claims are untrue.)
    It is interesting that the AIPAC article has not been archived on the website, but has completely dissappeared. I wonder how many people read the article, and are unaware it is untrue? And how many people, in turn, have they passed the propaganda on to?

    Reply

  52. Pissed Off American says:

    “Then it is our duty to hold those who “planned” and carried out these misbegotten wars accountable. This has happened in Israel; I hope to see it happen here.”
    Who was held “accountable” for clusterbombing Lebanon in the waning hours of the “war”? No one that I know of. I recently read that many farmers in Southern Lebanon have fields that are laying fallow because it is too dangerous to farm them due to the cluster bomblets. One can easily surmise that that is one of the reasons the Israelis distributed these bomblets. If you can’t kill them with bombs, than by God you can render their farmlands useless, and consign them to hunger. Such tactics are beyong despicable, and should surely be considered a war crime. If you in fact can cite the names of those that have been “held accountable” for the cluster bombing, please do so. But somehow I have the gut feeling that you cannot cite the names of any such people.

    Reply

  53. steve duncan says:

    I’ve said this before here and on countless other blog comment sections: In a just world Bush (and several others in his employ) would stand trial for war crimes and then be trotted off to the gallows.

    Reply

  54. Tom S says:

    I am reminded of the death of Israeli peace activist David Grossman’s son in last year’s Lebanon fighting. Grossman wrote a heartbreakingly sensitive and lucid tribute to his son. We should all mourn the loss of young men and women in war. Then it is our duty to hold those who “planned” and carried out these misbegotten wars accountable. This has happened in Israel; I hope to see it happen here.

    Reply

  55. daCascadian says:

    Thank you for posting this. Condolences to him & his family.
    The fact is that his son, along with all the others, is dead & nothing any of us can do can bring any of them back. Their experiences and insights are gone forever. Any other considerations are just “commentary” so to say.
    Truly a disaster of historical proportion is this “season” of madness in human affairs.
    [My service was 1965-1969 for those that might wonder about such things]
    “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – Gandalf the Grey

    Reply

  56. infoshaman says:

    I had just finished reading Helena Cobban’s latest call for a U.S. withdrawal. Hers and your columns remind me that true leaders would make the decision to bring home our soldiers. Sadly, we have cowards in charge who will continue to let others–Americans and Iraqis–die rather than admit their mistakes.

    Reply

  57. Pissed Off American says:

    “He chose to be part of America’s military empire building, and he paid with his life. But it was still his choice.”
    Many service people ARE NOT there by choice. That includes active military, and especially National Guard. My advice to you would be to reconsider the position you have taken here. When one chooses to serve in the military, they do not get to pick and choose their wars. They are chosen for them.
    Your comment reeks of the same madness that occurred during Nam, where service members were blamed for the sins of their civilian leadership.
    In all honesty, your comment disgusts me, particularly the part were you say…
    “I’m terribly terribly sorry to say that his son was part of the problem. Surely someone like Bacevich’s son had other options in life. Why did he choose this one?”
    The fact that you would even say such a thing convinces me that you will never know the answer to the question you posed, for the answer is founded in a sense of patriotism that you obviously do not possess.

    Reply

  58. DonS says:

    . . “incredibly reckless escapade . . .”
    . . .”swamp of moral ambiguuity . . .”
    Both true and accurate in their own way. But oh so short of the mark of calling a spade a spade in all but the most exhalted circles of academia or beltway jargon.
    Dead is dead. And dead for a calculated and immoral purpose is heinous.
    Iraq is more than “reckless”, we damn well know. It is calculated.
    It is more than “ambiguous”, we damn well ought to know if the truth will out. It is unambiguously immoral, probably criminal.

    Reply

  59. Pissed Off American says:

    “To answer my own question above. Andrew Bacevich’s son’s life was precious — and his life and his untimely death matter greatly for just waking up and realizing we are achieving nothing in Iraq today and that responsibility must be borne by the perpetrators of this mess.”
    Steve, “responsiblity” is not accountability. We KNOW who is “responsible” for this “mess”. Your indignation is tepid and meaningless if you only advocate the recognition of “responsiblity”. In order for justice to be served, we must hold those “responsible” ACCOUNTABLE.
    I assume, by the tone of your post, that you realize that the deaths of ALL these soldiers in Iraq never should have happened, as the threat posed by Iraq was purposelly exagerated and misrepresented by this administration.
    So, if you are not endorsing and lobbying for impeachment, than you are doing a disservice to the families of ALL the dead and maimed service people that have served in an illegal and unecessary act of military agression.
    I realize that you choose your words carefully, and if you intended to place the word “responsible” in the space you should have placed the word “accountable” I find it hard to respect the tone of your post. I prefer to think you chose the word mistakenly, and, if rewritten, we would see the word “accountable” in your comment.

    Reply

  60. semper fubar says:

    I feel terrible for any person who has lost a family member in this stupid war. And yet, why would anyone volunteer for this madness? Did they think it could not come to this terrible end?
    Should I feel worse for someone whose son volunteered to be part of this conflict, to be part of the problem and the cause, more than than for some Iraqi who wonders why his son or daughter was killed by being at the wrong place and the wrong time in their own country?
    I’m terribly terribly sorry to say that his son was part of the problem. Surely someone like Bacevich’s son had other options in life. Why did he choose this one?
    He chose to be part of America’s military empire building, and he paid with his life. But it was still his choice.
    I’m sorry if that sounds cold. But that’s the reality of the situation.
    When enough people start refusing this immoral madness, then maybe it will stop. Until then… more deaths like Andrew Bacevich, 27, Walpole MA, and the un-named Iraqis he probably helped kill.

    Reply

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