Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Much as I oppose the war in Iraq and despise Donald Rumsfeld, I've been considering the fuss over his signature machine irrelevant. His real sin is that he has, in essence, signed the death warrant of 1300 American servicemen--and counting. Not signing those condolence letters is such a minor transgression, in comparison, that the hubbub over it is like accusing the man who wrote out that death warrant of failing to cross the final "t". Who cares? But if his carelessness in this matter finally makes his overall callousness register with Americans, then bravo. Ellen Goodman quoted two parents who now "get it."
"Our loved ones aren't just a number to us," said a New Hampshire mother who lost her 20-year-old son. "He didn't care. In my opinion, he doesn't care about nothing," said a Pennsylvania father who wears his late son's Purple Heart.
Rumsfeld's cavalier attitude about armor for military vehicles and about signing condolence notes would not have surprised the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon if that British soldier were still around. Sassoon wrote a vivid description of just such officers in "Base Details".
If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honor. "Poor young chap,"
I'd say--"I used to know his father well;
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die--in bed.
To call a deadly battle a "scrap" is not so different from telling soldiers who lack armor for their vehicles that they just have to deal with the army they have, not the one they'd like to have.
It's befuddling how it can take so long for people to recognize the arrogance of those who run this war. And it's disturbing that so many Americans buy, have always bought, whatever patriotic scam the scoundrels in power are currently selling. Their gullibility so often costs them their lives. John Kenneth Galbraith noted wryly that:
"Men must have a fairly elevated motive for getting themselves killed. To die to protect or enhance the wealth, power, or privilege of someone else, the most common reason for conflict over the centuries, lacks beauty." How beautiful is it to die for oil?

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