Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Monday, January 01, 2007

1000 X 3

[This Flashpoint column was published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star c. Sept. 9, 2004. There will be a candlelight recognition/demonstration commemorating those who have lost their lives in the Iraq war on Sunday, Jan. 7, 6:30 pm, in front of the Vigo County Court House. Please attend.]

Where they came from

We all need to spend some time with a map that recently appeared in newspapers and on the internet, the one labeled “Where they came from.” The hometowns of those who lost their lives in the Iraq War are depicted as black dots on this map. Dots representing 1,000 brave men and women are scattered across it. “Where they came from” may be a small town in western Montana or the barrio in Miami. Of the 1,000, 22 of the dots represent loved ones who will never return to Indiana.

Look deeply into each dark dot and you will see it is filled with hopes and dreams erased, sorrow and anguish underscored. These dots are not what the president’s father, George H. W. Bush, had in mind when he spoke of a thousand points of light.

With reverence and with awe we should all acknowledge the courage and heroism represented by each dot on this map. Beyond this sincere tribute to 1,000 examples of sacrifice, try imagining stories about the 1,000. It is heart-breaking. It can fill you with focused anger. I recommend it to all.

The youngest of the 1,000 to die was 18 years old. How many eighteen year olds do you know? What was your life like at 18? When you are 18 you can legally drink a beer in some states. You can run around and get into trouble. You can experience first love. You can search for a career in college; you can take on a real job. You can vote. And you can die for Cheney’s foreign policy delusions.

The oldest of the 1,000 was 59. How many fifty-nine year olds do you know? What will your life be like at 59? Or, what was it like? When you are fifty-nine you can pay the neighbor kid to cut your lawn. You can play golf every weekend it doesn’t rain. You can complain about rap music. You can laugh with your grandchildren. You can vote. And you can die for Powell’s foreign policy mistakes.

24 of the 1,000 dots represent women. Some of these were mothers and all of them were very brave. By entering the military and serving in the time of war these women broke barriers of a sort. What do you do when you are a woman with the courage to break barriers? Courageous women can take on an establishment that still undervalues and underpays in the workplace. Courageous women can stand up to the slurs and the sexism that infects the culture. Courageous women can mother intellectually curious children. Courageous women can vote. For reasons known only to them, these 24 courageous women put themselves in harms way and died for Condeleezza Rice’s foreign policy failings.

At least 179 of the 1,000 were “Weekend Warriors,” National Guard and Reservists. When you are a “Weekend Warrior” you can pick up some needed cash to get out from under that truck payment. You can add a skill to your resume. You can get to know some people who will be your friends for life. You can help people after floods, hurricanes, fires. “Weekend Warriors” can have their terms of service extended. “Weekend Warriors” can vote. “Weekend Warriors” can die in the Sunni Triangle in service to Rumsfeld’s foreign policy arrogance.

Another map is needed if you should want to pinpoint the darkness of the 7,000 troops who are returning home injured, many severely. Unlike the 310 of the 1,000 who died in the hot flash of an explosive device or the 210 whose lives ended as bullets ripped through flesh and organs, these 7,000 survived the assaults of the war machine. Their courage under fire and under a pressing dome of pain exceeds our imagination. They will be voting in November. Their injuries and their nightmares should always be reminders of Bush’s foreign policy lies.

It is estimated that at least 11,000 Iraqis--men, women and children--have died in this war. A map depicting these deaths would be an oily black smudge across Iraq. It could not be labeled “Where they came from” because they died in the villages and cities of their ancestors. They died in the streets where they often came in the hot afternoons to drink tea with friends. They died praying to their God. They died in their beds at home. They died surrounded by their inconsolable families. Iraqis do not vote in American elections. If we looked into this Iraqi map of the dead, we would read stories that would shame and frighten. The stories would be about American foreign policy blindness.

The American map of death shows us that 85% of the 1,000 died after May 1, 2003. This was after President Bush declared major combat operations over, or in the phrase we haven’t heard from him for some time now, “Mission Accomplished.”

When this war finally ends, will we be safer, more secure, freer, richer, and respected in the world of nations? Or will we be more hated, more vulnerable, poorer and feared to the point of dangerous desperation by a growing number of states?

What stories will we tell ourselves when the map figure reaches 2,000? What will we see when we look into the dots of death on a map representing those figures? These maps of death should not be called “Where they came from.” A better name is “Where have we been and why?”

*********
This is from Slate, Jan. 1, 2007 at: http://www.slate.com/id/2156753/ This article includes links to the newspaper reports it cites.

The New York Times reports that the last 1,000 American deaths—the body count had reached 2,000 in October 2005—resulted from an increased success rate for roadside bombs (despite improvements in body armor) and largely affected the regular military services, because many National Guard and reserve units have been rotated out. The article also points out that 93 American soldiers have committed suicide in Iraq and that more than 20,000 have been wounded. The Washington Post notes that casualty rates will stay steady unless there is a major change in strategy, and finds that many congressional Republicans such as Kansas Sen. (and potential 2008 presidential candidate) Sam Brownback are skeptical of President George W. Bush's expected plan to send more troops to Iraq. Only the Los Angeles Times points out that at least 5,900 Iraqi soldiers and police have died in the same time period.

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