by Ross Nelson
Coming from a large family and marrying a woman also from a large family, I have a broad network of relatives. By blood and marriage I’m an uncle more than 40 times over, with nephews, nieces and cousins galore of various generations. One of these relatives, an Iraq war veteran, died this past summer.
I didn’t know him well, which is pretty much true for most of my young relatives scattered from coast to coast. We met only once or twice. He was a nice teenaged kid. He later joined the military, fought in Iraq, and returned home some time ago. But he brought something else home from that war, something apparently many veterans have, an anger and remorse that led to medical treatment. One agitated night this young, handsome man died in a home accident, leaving behind his bride of less than one year.
To my mind he is as much a casualty of the Iraq war as any unfortunate American killed by a sniper or a roadside bomb. Although I wasn’t much acquainted with him, I know his father well, and the pain of a parent who buries his child must be exquisite beyond telling.
I have no idea what most of my relatives think of the Iraq war. I speak only for myself in the anger and disgust I feel at what our duly elected leaders have done, and at the insensate masses who supported these imbeciles who led us into war. Did it ever occur even once to George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the war-loving gang in Washington that their dreams of conquest of a country that never threatened us would get Americans killed, wounded, and distorted? That a waterfall of tears might be the result?
When they huddled in their little groups, even before 9/11 and especially after, ignoring contrary evidence that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and plotting to bring Saddam Hussein down, did it never cross their minds that they were playing with the lives of real people? Almost to a man draft dodgers and duty-shirkers, they must have felt that lying to get other Americans to suffer for their plans was the right thing to do, the Constitution or morality be damned.
I wonder if these ignorant, foolish old men gave even the slightest thought to the Iraqi parents and children they were condemning to die by the tens of thousands, if they gave any heed to the terrified children of parents slaughtered at checkpoints or huddled in corners of the room when American soldiers burst in at 3 a.m. I wonder if they could understand that Iraqis are as human as we are, and as deserving of peace.
We can be certain that Bush, et al. gave not a moment’s thought to whether they were authorized to start a war, or whether aggressive war had been outlawed 60 years before. To top off their arrogance, they looked across the fields of battle and suffering years into the war, and said they’d still go to war all over again even knowing that Iraq had no WMD. Is it a category mistake to speculate whether stupidity can shade into evil?
Perhaps the bitterest pill is knowing that deception led to all this death and suffering. The lies about Iraq started with President Clinton who knew better, what with the information he got from the Iraqi defector General Hussein Kamel and U.N. inspector Rolf Ekeus about Iraq’s clean WMD slate. Dying for a good cause would take some sting out of death. My relative died for powerful men who weren’t fit to be his leader.
Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org