Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day Mockery

As George Bush, Dick Cheney and other unbloodied politicians make their patriotic speeches this weekend, we should be listening instead to an American who has earned the moral right to be heard.

A West Point graduate and veteran of the Vietnam war, Andrew Bacevich, who opposed our actions in Iraq and then lost a son who volunteered to fight there, writes in the Washington Post:

“Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.”

Along with condolences, Bacevich tells us, he received messages from patriots telling him “my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy” and “my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.”

Such vileness is beyond comment, but Bacevich’s grief is compounded by his own guilt: “I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.”

Bacevich’s torment recalls a 1942 short story by Irwin Shaw, “Preach on the Dusty Roads” about a man who, after seeing his son off to fight in World War II, is overwhelmed with remorse that he hadn't been out begging people everywhere to prevent it or stop it.

Have any of us done enough?

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