What if every time an American soldier was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan it was required by law or civility that the U.S. Senator from the soldier’s home state had to call the mother or surviving spouse?
What if for every lost life President Bush was expected to contact the loved ones and respond each time to their questions of why? What if he was called on time and again over 100 times per month to look into their tear filled eyes and answer their pleas, “was it worth it?’ What if instead of hiding the flag draped coffins from view of photographers our President along with our lawmakers were required to be pallbearers?
Would they still show up for work the next day and vote for more weapons, more guns, and more bullets?
Two photos in this morning’s NY Times led me through the soft summer morning air to these questions. In one photo I saw President Bush, dressed in a sweatshirt with USA across the front, fishing with his father. Ironically on a boat named Fidelity III, in the same week when he has thumbed his nose at a Congressional subpoena and the US Constitution. On the same day American soldiers in Baghdad are cleaning up blood using toilet paper after giving emergency care to an Iraqi citizen injured by a bomb. He is fishing with his Oakley’s on while five American soldiers were blown up. The same day that marks the end of the bloodiest three months of the Iraq war.
Will we ever see an end to this war as long as those in a position to do something to end it are so insulated?
When those in power are at a safe distance from the chaos and the carnage it is easy for them to exchange compassion for greed? When thousands are dying and millions are crying because of your choices and you still have the disposition that allows you to go fishing, then it seems that the disconnect has become lethal. Reading about a death and holding the dead in your arms are two markedly different experiences. The former makes the unthinkable viable. The latter would soon make the present situation intolerable.
“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. This is absurd. It may even be criminal.”
I doubt that Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon could have said these words on the floor of the US Senate last December if he had not taken it upon himself to make over 100 calls to grief stricken parents and spouses of Oregon soldiers killed in Iraq. The suicide of his own son four years ago deepens his compassion.
When you have held death in your arms, when you have known the deep stabbing of grief in your own heart, then you are incapable of disconnect from the pain of others.
Of course President Bush was right about one thing, when he said the surge and upcoming summer campaign to secure Baghdad would be “bloody.” Perhaps President Bush believes what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience at the University Of Chicago Divinity School,
“For the believing Christian, death is no big deal.”
If that is the case all the more reason President Bush should be the one to knock on the door with the news or to pick up the phone and make the call over 100 times a month. Maybe by sheer repetition the reality would finally penetrate President Bush’s wall of delusion.
* December 3, 2001 NY Times Article by Tim Weiner reporting on an American attack of a rural village. He quotes villager Muhammad Tahir: “We are poor people. Our trees are our only shelter from the cold and wind. The trees have been bombed. Our waterfall, our only source of water-they bombed it. Where is the humanity?”