August 27, 2006
IN A WAR GONE BAD, SACRIFICE IS NOT IN VAIN
By Frank Schaeffer
SALISBURY, Mass. // The Marine Corps has just announced that it is calling back several thousand Marines from inactive reserve units. After Sept. 11, all our president asked of most Americans was to go shopping, travel and maintain the economy. But our service members are asked to make sacrifices most Americans wouldn't dream of.
Many Americans are saying that our troops are sacrificing in vain. They are wrong. So are those who claim that if you want to support the troops, you have to support the president. Both misunderstand the meaning of military service in our democracy.
My youngest son, John, joined the Marines in 1999. Bill Clinton was president. The nightmare of Sept. 11 was still in the realm of the unthinkable. John was trained to serve as a Marine wherever he might be sent, not for any particular war. He served five years and returned safely from two combat tours in Afghanistan - a "good war," according to most pundits and opinion polls - and after a mission in Iraq, a war gone "bad."
I was fortunate. My son survived. A friend lost her only child.
Mindy Evnin's son was killed in Iraq. On a sweltering day last month, my wife and I drove from our home in Massachusetts to Burlington, Vt., to visit Mark's grave. Standing in front of that young Marine's headstone, I was overwhelmed by sorrow, fury at the mishandling of so many aspects of the war by our political leaders and by gratitude for Mark's life well-lived. Those emotions aren't as contradictory as they might seem.
I e-mailed a civilian friend about visiting Mark's grave. "To me," he answered, "the soldiers who are dying in Iraq should not have been there in the first place. ... If they die, they will have died in vain because the war is all a tissue of lies and/or failed policies."
Did Mark and thousands of others die in vain?
We need to take a step back from the bitter debate over the Iraq war and look at the deeper meaning of service. Does it change when wars go badly? If Mark had been killed in Afghanistan, would that have been a more noble sacrifice than being killed in Iraq?
Maybe it would be helpful to consider the significance of service in a less politicized context. When a fireman runs up the stairs while everyone else runs down, the value of his action is unrelated to who started the fire, or whether those saved are "worthy." And the morality of his action doesn't depend on his motives or whether his leaders are truthful or wise. It is all about what he does once he's called upon to act on behalf of all of us.
While we are busy looking out for ourselves, that fireman is busy looking out for us. His willingness to serve is a victory for community, social responsibility, compassion and bravery.
What did Mark die for?
He did not die for George Bush's ever-changing rationalizations: "finding WMD," "freeing Iraq" or "bringing democracy to the Middle East." And in all probability, if he was like my son, Mark never thought much about why he volunteered. The point is, he did, and in combat he acted on the belief that the Marines standing next to him were more important than he was - and, by extension that his country was more important than his individual right to comfort and safety.
Service in our democracy is not about politics. My son's volunteering in the Clinton era, then being sent to two "Bush wars," one "good" and the other "bad," handily illustrates the fact that the act of volunteering has nothing to do with fighting any war in particular and everything to do with service for service's sake.
Volunteering is a pre-political statement. And if you believe that American democracy is worthwhile, no matter what its imperfections, then the act of volunteering to be sent wherever your country needs you must be acknowledged as a priceless gift from the individual citizen to his or her country. This gift's morality doesn't depend on the rightness or wrongness of any war but on the soldier's high-stakes commitment to the value of our democratic experiment.
Mindy wrote me: "I don't know if Mark was a 'hero.' He did what he was asked to do, and he did it without hesitation. ... Maybe that is heroic."
It was. Our troops volunteer with no guarantee of success. They serve with or without support from other Americans. Now, some are being recalled involuntarily to participate in the fragile exercise of self-rule by equipping our government "of the people" to take action.
There are several thousand Marines who thought that their time of duty was done. Now they are going to be sent back into combat. They will be unhappy, even angry. Some will believe the president is wrong to send them, and their families will be sick with worry. But our Marines will go.
Their lives - and, inevitably for some, their deaths - present us with a stark question: Is citizenship only about enjoying personal preferences, or should we take responsibility for those around us, and by extension for our country?
We don't all need to serve in the military, but in the face of the sacrifice of those who do, what is our excuse for just going shopping? How we answer the question posed to us by their service will decide the health, morality and ultimately the survival of our democracy.
(Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His forthcoming novel is "Baby Jack." Contact him at frankschaeffer.com)
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Upcoming 2006 Democratic Convention Agenda
6:00 p.m. - Opening flag burning ceremony.
6:05 p.m. - Opening secular prayers by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al
6:30 p.m. - Anti-war concert by Barbra Streisand.
6:40 p.m. - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
7:00 p.m. - Tribute theme to France.
7:10 p.m. - Collect offerings for al-Zawarhi defense fund.
7:25 p.m. - Tribute theme to Germany.
7:45 p.m. - Anti-war rally (Moderated by Michael Moore)
8:25 p.m. - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
8:30 p.m. - Terrorist appeasement workshop.
9:00 p.m. - Gay marriage ceremony (both male and female couples)
9:30.p.m. - * Intermission *
10:00.p.m. - Posting the Iraqi Colors by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins
10:10 p.m. - Re-enactment of Kerry's fake medal toss.
10:20.p.m. - Cameo by Dean 'Yeeearrrrrrrg!'
10:30 p.m. - Abortion demonstration by N.A.R.A.L.
10:40 p.m. - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
10:50 p.m. - Pledge of allegiance to the UN.
11:00 p.m. - Multiple gay marriage ceremony (threesomes, mixed and same
sex). Rep. Barney Frank (D,Mass.), Sponsor
11:15 p.m. - Maximizing Welfare workshop.
11:30 p.m. - 'Free Saddam' pep rally.
11:59 p.m. - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
12:00 p.m. - Nomination of democratic candidate.
Any chance we could get Ted Kennedy to drive Hillary home from the
Thank you. We sure can be proud of our troops. They will go and that is why this country is the greatest.
I stay out of this stuff but this one is just too good! Thanks George! I like the "Dem. Agenda" as well!
if you don't support the idea of going into Iraq, and you don't agree with the president, you don't support the troops eh? I'd say not going along with sending them into a meat grinder for a lost cause isn't exactly unsupportive.
It's understandable that soldier has no choice but to follow the mission and I commend them for that. But there's no excuse for those that will easily sacrifice them for a lost cause while they sit back confortablly with no chance of being sacrified themselves.
I do see you guys must be coming around if you agree with all the writer has to say where he says " He did not die for George Bush's ever-changing rationalizations: ""finding WMD,"" ""freeing Iraq"" or ""bringing democracy to the Middle East.""
This would have been unspeakable last year when many of you acted as if Bush walked on water. I see now even Bush admits 9/11 had no connection to Iraq even though he and Cheney adamantly used that one for all it was worth.
how do you know Cecil? and I thought I was right about everything! I still say that if Ted Kennedy and Hillary are for it (anything political) I am against it; and your not? well OK then.
I don't care for either one of those two either. So your point was? LOL
Considering Bush is afraid of water I doubt he walks on it.
Good thing. If he fell off a horse as many times as he falls off of bicycles he could end up another Christopher Reeves.
But I just can't imagine how he can call himself a Texas cowboy if he's afraid to ride a horse?
I do not understand, how a small business person and "practicing" believing Christain Catholic can be a democrat or even a liberal! JFK was more republican than most republicans are today! You say you understand so I guess thats what makes the world curn.
But as God is my witness, some of the remarks you make would make a pissant look like Einstein. The gentleman who wrote the editorial is vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq and has said so in many fashions. HOWEVER, his analogy of firefighters and servicemen was to emphasise the point of duty, honor and country. Are you incapable of seeing that. Are you so blinded by political ideology to be able to see the idiocy in your remarks? (That's obviously a rhetorical question.)
I know, I'll get the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ or something else sophomoric out of a person who's supposed to be an adult, but the fact remains. You just don't have a clue.
As we used to say back in fourth grade, "You coppykitter!
I'll ask you the same question: How can you be a catholic christian and outdoorsman and be for Bush and the republican party? You've been hoodwinked if you think the president and the republican party stands for your values. The president has said he doesn't have time for church and only stepped foot in a church one time during his first term. And as you indicated, the present republican party is not what it used to be.
1.) They are NOT fiscally conservative (haven't been since before Reagan -- both Reagan and Bush Senior quadrupled our deficit),
When the democrats call for less spending somethings terribly weird. It's like a flip flop. And Bush has vetoed only one bill in his 6 years in office! And it had nothing to do with spending!
2.) Your party can't stop abortion and they know it, but it didn't stop them from pretending so they could to get your vote. As much as I dispise abortion the supreme court has ruled and when the supreme court has ruled on something that's usually it.
3.) The attempt at a constitutional ammendment against gay unions was a no go and the republican congress critters knew it, but it didn't stop them from pretending, to shore up support from their base.
4.) The flag burning ammendment was a no go and again a play to bolster support from their base.
5.) The republican party is about as friendly to the environment as Colonel Sanders is to chickens. Bush's idea of being an outdoorsman is clearing brush on the property. What's with that?
6.) Your party is composed of chicken hawks with no qualms about sending our young men and women to battle over very questionable intelligence. Funny at one time I remember it was the democrats that were the war hawks.
7.) Bush will proabably get us into WWIII before his term is up.
What do you want a devil you can see or one that is fooling you?
My main mission this fall is to get rid of incumbents both republican and democrat.
BTW that word "liberal" is so overused it doesn't even have any meaning anymore.
Insults but no good arguments. What can I say? At least Jim refrains from "sophmoric" insults and comes up with some good points with a chance for me to respond with my viewpoint.
Saying sacrificing good men and women in a unjustified war is honorable is about as dumb as it gets -- not to mention illogical. Sorry that dog don't hunt and your attempt at bashing me for pointing that out doesn't hunt either.
we're already in WWIII , and as much as you want to blame Bush , he didn't start it.
Like I said the WWII vets at the nearby legion hall would be laughing their butts off on that one. So you're saying the death toll today although terrible matches anything of WWII? Please...
Damn tootin I'll blame Bush. It was his idea to invade Iraq. His father knew better:
"In a foreign policy move that would later be questioned, President Bush achieved his stated objectives of liberating Kuwait and forcing Iraqi withdrawal, then ordered a cessation of combat operations —allowing Saddam Hussein to stay in power. His Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney noted that invading the country would get the United States "bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq." Bush later explained that he did not give the order to overthrow the Iraqi government because it would have "incurred incalculable human and political costs... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq"."
You're wrong...I'm not going to C&P my way to try to convince you of the truth but your post "Hey that's my line Jim!" has more holes in it than swiss cheese. Just because you say so does not make it true. (So now you can put some C&Ps in response). But your assertion that the republican party is not-friendly with the environment is B.S. The Kyoto accords that you libs hang your hat on restricted only the United States as the rest of the world still had no requirements for pollution. DUH! we once again have to abide by rules no-one else is held to. And the reference to the amendment banning flag 'desecration...well I'll leave this one c&p and one can make up their "own" opinion... "The American flag, then, throughout more than 200 years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation. It does not represent the views of any particular political party, and it does not represent any particular political philosophy. The flag is not simply another "idea" or "point of view" competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have. I cannot agree that the First Amendment invalidates the Act of Congress, and the laws of 48 of the 50 States, which make criminal the public burning of the flag." The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.