Monday, January 09, 2006

Marines Betrayed and a father's eloquent outrage

Yesterday, the WaPo ran a letter from the Father of Marine killed in Iraq starkly titled A Life Wasted.  The letter is an epitaph for his son that also asks hard questions about the war killed him:

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

Moving as the letter is alone, the tragedy of the loss is compounded when you consider this report that says his Son was killed by our supposed allies:

The families of those who died are being told that on Aug. 1, six Marine snipers from the 3/25 were killed, and it appears they were set up and ambushed.

Two days later, 14 Marines from the 3/25 were sent to arrest the insurgents who killed the snipers, but their vehicle was blown up, killing all of them.

It now appears that they also may have been set up.

What can you possibly say to a father who has lost his son because his elected leaders are incompetent, or bent on sacrificing his son for their fever dreams of empire?  

Mr. Schroder eloquently shows how empty words are in face of such pointless grief:

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

This has become the favorite dodge of the of the Flag-waving Right.  They try to ignore the ugly realities and mounting costs of this war by covering everything with a red white and blue haze of high-sounding words and pretend that dying in battle is somehow glorious and noble (as if Wilfred Owen hadn't  killed that Lie nearly 90 years ago with Dulce et Decorum est)

but to the families affected, he hollowness of the words and gestures are made obvious by their loss:

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

and then Mr. Schroeder attempts a little quiet heroism of his own:

This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

and his Son had apparently been having the same questions about the war:

n our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

And Schroeder has been no passively grieving father, he's been extremely active in trying to get the real story of just what happened to his son that day, and what's he forced the military to admit, and uncovered on his own destroys the myth that we are making "progress in Iraq" (from the second linked article):  

six Marine snipers were killed in a firefight just outside of Hadithah. The Marines said they were on an intelligence-gathering mission, but family of the fallen and Schroeder say insurgents may have infiltrated Iraqi security and betrayed the Marines.

"What we have heard from Marines is that the six snipers who were killed on Aug. 1 were set up," said Schroeder.

Schroeder said it was the mission of his son and 13 other Marines to capture the insurgents who killed the snipers.

The amphibious assault vehicle carrying Augie Schroeder was blown up and all 14 Marines on board were killed.

Paul Schroeder said his son and the others were also betrayed by Iraqi forces who were supposed to be working with the Marines.

"The two incidents of Aug. 1 and Aug. 3 are tied together, all in an effort to get insurgents who were either part of the Iraqi security forces or who were told by Iraqi security forces where they had their opportunities," said Schroeder.

The military has been its usual forthcoming self about this:

NewsChannel5 spoke with Maj. Shenandoah Sanchez, who investigated the events.

"All details pertaining to the incident are still classified," he said.

But Lt. Col. Mike Brown, also with the 3/25, said the investigation, "was about how the people responsible were ultimately found."

Brown told NewsChannel5, "The fact these men were compromised is a part of the investigation."

Brown declined to say who they were and if they were captured.

Can You imagine what you'd do if this was your son?  Not only is he killed, a grief that's almost unimaginable, but then you find out he was lured to his death by the very people his president is embracing as the solution to the Iraq quagmire.  What would you do?

Well Paul Schroeder has a suggestion for all of us:

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?...

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

are ya ready to stop whispering?


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