By Mark David Blum, Esq.
“Do you have a horse in this race?”
From the moment the White House began to beat the drums of war in Iraq, I was loud and clear in my opposition. All the suffering we now endure at home and abroad is directly linked to the decision to invade. The “I told you so’s” are pouring in; from Baker all the way to Hamilton, from every current and former military commander on the ground, from the current defense secretary, to the overwhelming majority of Americans who spoke loudly in the last election. More than one half a trillion dollars, tens of thousands dead, millions hurt and displaced, and America’s image now in shreds. It is time to come home.
The President has other ideas. He sent out his hawk, McCain to search for the few shreds of militaristic carrion that might still be lurking in the American spirit. Republicans and the White House are planning a major troop buildup in Iraq. Their Faux News pundits are screaming loud and clear in support.
From the first shocking and totally awesome shot fired at the supposed meeting, through today, the MarkBlum Report has kept a public record of the number of American dead and wounded in the War. I knew then as I do now that the death toll, no matter what the final number becomes, will never be worth it. In my coming of age in America, it was always about the soldiers. They were human beings and nobody should have to die for a mistake.
Every morning now since the invasion, this website has updated the latest number of dead and wounded in hopes the sheer numbers themselves would have an impact on public opinion. Behind the published numbers is a link to the names, home towns, and personal biographical information of each individual soldier. Every morning, the numbers went up. The number of days where the number ‘0’ was posted can be counted on one hand.
When the first casualties fell, their names and personal information were headline news around the nation. We met their parents, their friends and neighbors, and watched the tears fall as we listened to a tale of an honorable young man who only wanted to serve his country. Today, we can barely hear the mumble of the number of daily dead and wounded from a newscaster before they rush to the latest Miss U.S.A. scandal. Thanks to the media, I met Jessica Lynch, Lyndie England, and Cindy Sheehan. Yet, the faces, names, and locations were all the same.
Nonetheless, every dead and wounded soldier, every wounded and broken heart was always an abstract concept to me. Yes, they were human beings and Americans and thus at a certain level, I felt and shared their pain. It is sad to learn of soldiers who do not come home; or are not whole.
The war has finally come home to me. This past year I have come to know the people behind the faces of a handful of bodies that are among those Mr. Bush wants to throw at Iraqi IEDs. Through work and play, my paths have crossed with some of those faceless greensuiters that clutter the news with action footage. I have met their spouses, girlfriends, and children. I have sat in their homes, drank their pisswater beer, and listened to them whine. They have become my friends and in a sense, have become my responsibility to protect and to serve.
The day their boots leave American soil, my life will change. Footage thrown around on television for gawking viewers will now have me hungrily searching for a face or an insignia. When I hear of more dead and wounded, I won’t breathe until I know an identity. Helpless am I here at home to stop the violence or end the boredom that they will face wearing that big “I am an American” bulls-eye.
Up until this year, I never had a horse in this race. The war was at one level, an abstract issue, to be fought on the political front. Now, for me at least, the war has a face and a name. I now have a horse in this race. The outcome and indeed the contest itself has taken on a very personal and serious role in my life. My political mission and perspective has not changed an iota. Getting American soldiers onto planes and back home has moved up my priority list.
If John McCain and George Bush want to increase American troop strength in Iraq, then let each of them be first to grab a weapon and stand that wall. Let their children and grandchildren, their neighbors and their children, their cousins, nieces and nephews, all pick up a weapon and get on that first plane out. I hear we could use their help on patrols. Now that we know the truth about Sadaam and WMD, the current social ethnocentric realignment that is underway, and the hard finality of the Baker / Hamilton report, it defies logic and common sense to spill another droplet of American sweat in a desert that has sucked the life out of invaders for millennia.
I want to make it absolutely clear that I will hold my President, his Party, and every advocate of the invasion of Iraq personally responsible for any harm that befalls those I know. NO, this is not a threat against the President and I would never resort to violence to solve this problem. Rather, I will find a way to put all those whose hands are stained with blood in a witness box and compel them to face an American jury. Whether by civil process or criminal war crime prosecution, those guilty will pay. If there is a way for it to be done, I will find it.
At its core, this war is over. The battle was lost the day we defeated the enemy and encamped. From that day forth, we have become the enemy; our own worst enemy. So long as the President thinks of the war in terms of dueling bumper sticker slogans … win or surrender, stay the course or cut and run … we will never taste success. Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon also felt if we just increased troop levels, we could shore up a government and build a military. Twenty some odd thousand American dead later, and we were running for our lives.
No, Mister President and no Senator McCain; the answer to Iraq is not more American dead and wounded. The solution is not a New Deal or a Big Deal, but a No Deal.
Not one more boot on the ground, not one more dime spent, not one more drop of sweat or blood spilt to further this mistake of political judgment. After all we have learned, there is nothing in Article II of the Constitution that will give the President enough cover if anything happens to someone I know.
I once swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. Willful blindness and deliberate indifference is not just a tale wagging the dog. There is no longer any “plausible deniability” available as a defense. My Congress and Senate are clogged with political cowards who will not do their jobs. So, it may come down to me and some dusty old law books. Though they may be my only weapons, they can be far more destructive than a gun.
Mister President, steeling yourself against the wave of opposition here at home is reminiscent of the last paranoid days of the Nixon White House. Are you too talking to paintings of your predecessors? I know Henry Kissinger has been hanging around. An honorable man will admit his mistakes, correct his errors, and accept judgment. Bring the troops home, end the war in Iraq, and go get that bastard Bin Ladin. The judgment of history and hopefully a grand jury awaits your next move.