Monday, August 22, 2005

Why are our soldiers dying?

It's a simple question that deserves a straight forward answer. Cindy Sheehan is a mother who has ignited a firestorm with that question based on her single-minded mission to get an answer from the only person in the world who can answer it: President Bush.

As we all know now, Cindy lost her son, U.S. Army Spc. Casey Sheehan on April 4, 2004 while he served our country in Iraq. While the President has been enjoying his five-week long vacation in Crawford, Ms. Sheehan has been there, along with other members of Gold Star Mothers for Peace, to ask the President one simple question: Why did soldiers like her son have to die?

In all the partisan bickering and posturing in the nation, it's the one unanswered question that hangs over the debate over Iraq. Even today, the President was in Utah attempting to give the same rote answer to that very question. His answer is Sept. 11 and terrorism. Increasingly, the American public, like Cindy Sheehan, has been demanding a better answer.

As part of her peace vigil, Ms. Sheehan and her fellow demonstrators have erected a memorial to all of the fallen soldiers in Iraq. A simple, makeshift wooden cross, painted white with an individual soldiers name hand painted on each cross. The crosses don't stand as an endorsement of Ms. Sheehan's political views by the deceased service men and women of Iraq. They are a reminder of the over 1,800 brave men and women who gave their own lives in service of the country in Iraq. Each pure white cross ask the purest of questions: We know why our children were willing to go, but only you, Mr. President, can answer why they were sent.

We all know why they went. They went because they believe in freedom, and they wanted to defend it with their own lives. Now, the price for freedom they paid is being passed around like a bad check.

Unable to give an answer to Ms. Sheehan's question, and after numerous attempts to discredit her, from calling her a peacenik, attention whore to belittling her loss (Rush Limbaugh astutely pointed out that we all "lose things,") they are left to deconstruct her memorial that was ironically created in memory of those who valued and understood freedom more than those left behind.

Today, on a radio talk show, I heard a conservative host gleefully and profusely thank and praise a father of a killed serviceman who called down to the police in Crawford, Texas to demand that the police there remove any cross with his son's name on it. Let me say that again, he wanted the government to remove any reference of his son from a memorial created by peaceful and lawful demonstrators exercising that most valued of freedoms- the free exercise of political speech.

While protected by our First Amendment, the right to free speech was not created so people could watch porn and millionaires could donate as much money to their personal politicians. The right of free speech was born out of a simple revolutionary thought. If the leaders are to lead the people, then the people should have the right to always ask, "why."

Don't get me wrong. Nobody likes the idea of a dead relative being used in political speech that deceased may have vehemently disagreed with, but nobody bats an eye when the pro-life movement erects memorials for aborted fetuses without the permission of those who have had abortions. Nor do we consider whether the families of slain police officers gave their permission before the memory of their family member's sacrifice is used to pass a new gun control or crime bill.

Freedom of speech requires the ability of society to express ideas different from your own, no matter how repugnant to your own they may be. No reasonable person would view that memorial as an endorsement of Ms. Sheehan's political views by our fallen heroes. There's no false light or invasion of privacy claim here. The names of our dead soldiers is, and should be, public information. For far too long, this Administration has tried to hide images of flag-drapped caskets and mourning families. It's time we take a hard look and ask ourselves- why?

What right does any police officer have to disturb this peaceful and lawful demonstration, and what right does any private citizen have to demand the police do so?

No amount of Clint Black concerts, yellow magnetic ribbons, or invocations of past "great" wars and past great horrors, like Sept. 11, can justify the loss of one U.S. soldier. Even if the President never talked to Ms. Sheehan again, I hope he comes back for his vacation with an answer to as to "why." It's the only thing that can truly be done to honor the sacrifice so many have made.

But no matter what happens in Iraq, only one thing can happen that can truly mean these soldiers died in vain, and that is if we begin to lose sight of the very freedoms they readily agreed to risk their lives to protect. And there is no greater insult to their memory than trashing those freedoms in their name.


tvh said...


Two things, though:

(1) You have an unfinished sentence at the end of the 10th paragraph.

(2) I would disagree with this sentence as it is: "No amount of Clint Black concerts, yellow magnetic ribbons, or invocations of past "great" wars and past great horrors, like Sept. 11, can justify the loss of one U.S. soldier." and would add to the end, "can justify the loss of one U.S. soldier in this current war" or "without an actual answer as to why they went." I think there are reasons to justify sending soldiers to war, and past "great wars" and past horrors can sometimes be a part of that. World War II is the reason that we understand the importance of standing up to genocidal tyrants (although we rarely do), and September 11th justified our invasion of Afghanistan (at least in my view). But, when the President cannot give an honest answer to the question "why were they sent" and then back it up with fact, that's when nothing justifies the death of a U.S. soldier.

So, that's my two cents! Miss you, Modern! :)

Modern Esquire said...

(1) Fixed it....

(2) I stand by my statement, except to point out that "without an actualy answer as to why they were being sent" is mentioned later in that same paragraph.

I never said no war is justified, but no war can be effectively waged without the leadership providing the people a clear understanding of why military action is necessary and what the objectives are.

Miss me? Was I missing?

Anonymous said...

One can always come up with a justification for war. It still doesn't ever make war right. Not only are innocents harmed in war, those justifications just aren't equally applied. Even with an honest justification, don't forget these are typically only partial truths. There usually is a bigger picture to what is being focused on publicly.

tvh said...

I generally agree with the idea that war is not generally not appropriate, even if justifiable, if you limit that to the initiation of the war rather than to the response. Even with the "two sides to every story" adage in mind, I believe that war is not just justifiable but also necessary at times when responding to the force of others. WWII being a perfect example. Perhaps we didn't go into it with a full understanding of what Hitler was doing, but let's be honest - we *should* have gone in there.

I've stood on the 38th parallel in Korea and I've visited the Normandy beaches and I've seen Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each is heartbreaking with the knowledge that the war should never have occurred but each brings with it certain lessons about the necessity to meet force with force and the encouragement to ensure that force is as narrowly tailored to the end means as possible. And yes, I still got that out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.