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, May 28, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- 3500: When a Real Benchmark Is Not a Benchmark


Soon the count will reach 3500. Is it disrespectful to speak of 3500 courageous Americans dead in Iraq as a “benchmark”? Would you prefer “milestone”? “signpost”? Someone should be paying attention. Someone should be giving these deaths in the Iraq War a title that will mean something to the wonks who have been making and supporting policies of death and assured defeat.

Someone should ask how these “benchmarks” fit our “goals.” Have the 3500 pointed the way to the “victory” in Iraq expected four long years ago? Does reaching this “touchstone” of 3500 make you feel safer? Does this life-ending, dream dissolving “yardstick” of 3500 allay the fears you’ve been conditioned to accept?

And now Bush and Congress obscenely lock arms in a loathsome grip insuring an even higher level of death and destruction in Iraq. What number of deaths in Iraq will be reached by September of this year, the period covered by the just passed legislation funding the war? Will that number be a clearer “gauge” than 3500?

And what fine and resonant proclamations on sacrifice did Senators and Congressmen who voted these billions for a death measure deliver this past Memorial Day? Why do we still agree to listen to double-speak speeches telling us how votes for more war, more deaths, are cast in order to “keep the troops out of harm’s way”? Did their speeches mention “target dates” or “timetables”?

And where did our Commander in Chief sign this war is the only answer legislation? In front of media lights and microphones, flags snapping in the open air, fitted out in his “Mission Accomplished” flight jacket? Or was he somewhere off in the shadows, in the leafy, silent as death, woods of Camp David? He probably spoke out on what Congress failed to deliver last week, “target dates” and “timetables.” We all know from bitter and bloody experience that Bush is big on “peemption.” He would describe “target dates” and “timetables” as “artificial,” giving this term his very best lip-curling sneer. 3500 is as far as you can get from "artificial." You won't hear that number on Bush's lips.

And, speaking of retreating, in shadows and dark forests of their own making, Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Richard Lugar, and Representative Brad Ellsworth, have not exactly stepped forward to trumpet their votes on the misery and death funding bill. Nothing from them on “milestones” reached or “measures” to guide us to a conclusion to this devastating, four years and counting, war. Will their “constituent friendly” offices send voters updates on their war friendly votes? Is their support for more war, more death, proudly displayed and ballyhooed on their slick web sites? What we need to see from them is what the Kurds call, ar akakan — ‘the responsibility of the government to act.’

Is 3500 dead an important benchmark? 3501 will be just as important. It takes courage and devotion to duty to give your life for your country. What does it take to admit lies and mistakes? Apparently a benchmark of 3500 isn’t enough.

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