Friday, March 28, 2008


(Go here for context)

Back on Sunday evening, my mother called to tell me that my brother, who has spent the past year in northern Iraq with his Army Reserve unit, was in Kuwait and would be coming home "with everyone they went there with," my mom said he said. Well, good. But you may also remember that it was on Sunday that the 4,000th U.S. serviceman was killed in Iraq. As I write this, he is now at Ft. Riley, Kansas, a mere couple of hours away from Wichita--too busy being debriefed (and decompressing, no doubt) to see family, but that's okay. After this weekend, he'll head back to his home in California.

Can I tell you that I actually felt a bit of guilt for being happy that my brother was coming home safely? Can I tell you that the first thing I found myself thinking about as my mom shared the good news with me was the images of the flag-draped coffins of servicemen and -women arriving in transport planes that the Defense Department didn't even want the public to know about? (Image found here) My brother is not in a box like that, and yet I was thinking of those men and women who were and are and will be in boxes like that. Is that a strange thing?

And I was thinking as well how the prior secrecy over those pictures, as I wrote here almost four years ago, was the most explicit sign we had yet had that, fight this war we would, but woe betide the men or women who revealed to the public any sense of the real costs of this war.

The point of this post isn't to rehash the war. Clearly, even those who most devoutly wished this particular consummation no longer much care to do rehash it. (Clearly, we all should do this--it's just not this post's point.) And for the record, I stand now by what I said in that earlier post--though, as you'll see, it's hard to feel terribly cheery as I reread it. The point of this post is both to welcome back my brother and to be honest about something: a certain perplexed guilt that this is the first armed conflict in which we as a nation have not been asked to sacrifice even indirectly through increased taxes, even as we have been told that in this conflict the stakes have never been higher than at any time since World War II. I'm not being coy or disingenuous when I say that I just don't get that. But then again, given the impetus behind the single-word statement that serves as this post's title, perhaps my perplexity is beside the point. Ours is not to question why/etc., etc.


Pam said...

I've always found it horrible - truly horrific - to not have us see each and every coffin that makes it back to our country. I think we should all see each of them and pay our quiet respects.

I'm glad that your brother has made it back home - and that all of the others in his group have made it back as well. I think it is always okay to feel gratitude.

With that said, I really dislike this war. I still think back to Jimmy Carter's editorial in the NYTimes when all of this was getting started - called something like 'A Just War or Just a War' - outlining reasons that justify a country 'going' to war. None of the reasons were met in the case of this war.

But I'll stop - that's not the point here, I know.

But I still dislike this war.

Doc said...

I also am glad yoour brother is back safely. Having been in one of these little dust-ups i can safely tell you that actually being home out of it is best.

i can also tell you why the home land wasn't asked to sacrifice anything: it's because if they did ask us, a whole hell of a lot more people would have paid a whole hell of a lot closer attention to what is -legally and morally - an unprovoked invasion and continuing occupation of a sovereign nation that was based entirely on lies and demaned a whole lot more accountability than has occured. the administration never wanted that.

what i still find appalling trhough is shrub's behavior: he has not attended 1 funeral of 1 serviceman.

there simply is no justifying this occupation.

i'll be interested in what your brother has to say: i would expect everything from 'piss on the whole thing' to 'we need to be there & stay there for eternity'.

soldiers are usually not shy about their opinions. the other thing about soldiers is that they only see their corner of things, so they only know -first hand- what's occuring around them. and, even then, not necessarily why.

i sincerely hope your brother is not rotating back, but rangers lead the way, hoo-ah! (or as used to be said: 'too tough to die, too stupid to care'...maybe they still do), so i expect his unit will be
headed back within a few months.

enjoy your time with him, every minute of it.

John B. said...

Thanks to both of you for your kind thoughts for my brother.

I'm with you, Pam: whatever our feelings about Iraq, those soldiers (those living, too) deserve to be honored publicly--or at the very least, better-served than they have been. We owe them that, and much, much more besides.

And I think I'd better stop right there, lest this turn into some long diatribe.

Winston said...

John, don't you dare feel guilt over your happiness that your brother is safe. That is not an appropriate or operable emotion. I celebrate with you that he is coming home sitting up and not in a box.

Oh, the arrogance of "So", with lip curled and that mask of indifferent defiance. A man who can send so many to a senseless death and feel no regrets, no remorse, nothing at all except the knowing that those were expendable resources in his greedy quest for control of the oil fields of Iraq...

I'm sorry, didn't intend a rant. I am just so bloody angry that I can't help it... I wish more people were...

R. Sherman said...

I'm glad he his home safe. And I second Winston's remarks. I hope you get to spend some time with him before he heads out to CA.