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July 03, 2005


This list keeps getting longer. Six from Louisville Kentucky. Three from Derby Kansas. Two from Bossier City Louisiana. Twelve from my old hometown and its suburbs. 191 from California. 1745 in all. By the time you read this, that number will almost certainly be higher.

And I have a few questions about the list.

How many mothers crumpled inside, hearing the news on the phone? How many fathers felt the stab in the gut, the cramp of grief in the back of the neck? How many pillowcases soaked with tears and snot?

How many warm Saturday afternoons with one less person around the grill? How many future miles not walked with dogs, future boxes of popcorn not fetched for daughters who went ahead to find seats before the movie starts?

How many hours spent falling into the hole in the center of your heart? How many hours spent wondering why your life is over so young, a widow at 23?

I know the answers to some of these questions, but I find myself needing to ask them anyway. I know that some of the answers will be different for each name, but I need to ask them anyway. Did they make their peace with themselves? Did they suffer? Did they cry? Did they know what hit them? Were their last thoughts of their lovers? Their mothers? Their children?

Were they writers? Mechanics? Bakers? Students, teachers, dropouts, dyslexics, National Merit Finalists, gardeners, truck drivers, athletes, klutzes, saints or assholes?

Did they find grace and humanity in the people of Iraq? Did they cast their eyes on the battered landscape and still find beauty in it? Were they fearful? Did the terror sour into hatred, resentment?

Did they vote?

Would they vote differently now?

Did they know they were fighting for a lie?

Is there an American with a life worth more than any one of these? The President who lied with a straight face, or the advisors who coached him in the lies? The strutting, snide pundits? The snarling radio hosts? The propagandists and the preeners? The hooting cowards on their warblogs? The complacent? The spineless loyal opposition? The people on the list died in agony, many of them, in fear and anguish and remorse. When their time comes - and may that day be long off - are there any in the political class who deserve a death one mite more pleasant than the people on the list deserved?

Posted by Chris Clarke at July 3, 2005 12:42 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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thanks chris--

Posted by: Sean at July 3, 2005 06:50 AM
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The list of those who have died fighting Bush's War is far larger than that. Keep in mind the Iraqi and East Asian contractors employed by the US military, not to mention the US contractors, those working for KBR and their subcontractors. Most of them are not getting paid as much as everyone here thinks they are, and they are 10,000 miles away from their families just like the military. KBR recruits the same demographic as the Army, just twenty years older: the Middle America poor, those just trying to make ends meet -- and KBR offers them three or four times the salary they're making at their blue-collar Kansas job, and all they have to do is go around the world and be alone for a year, trying not to die. The military outsources two types of jobs: those that are cheaper/easier to do by non-military types, and those that are too routinely dangerous to end up as bad PR. Dead military gets in the news every day, dead contractors don't have to be disclosed. (Note that the list of dead contractors on that site is derived solely from news reports.)

And it's all the same in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Adam Fritzler at July 3, 2005 08:47 AM
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You are right of course, Adam.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 3, 2005 09:01 AM
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Here here. Thank you very much for writing this passionate essay. I found it a bit cathartic to read as I have similar thoughts and ideals but have not organized them as eloquently as you have here. The men and women risking eveything on 'our' behalf deserve much better than we're providing.

Posted by: TroutGrrrl at July 3, 2005 08:16 PM
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Tonight, while painting in my studio, I listened to the deep booms and pops of New York City's 4th of July fireworks display. I found myself thinking about the appeal of fireworks themselves. The noise and the spectacle is a stand in for the violence of war. We celebrate historic victories by re-creating the experience, only we "Ooo" and "Ahhh" instead of screaming and firing.

Years from now, Iraqis - if the country remains intact - will celebrate the expulsion of the United States, just as we now clap and cheer the colorful bombs that symbolically expel the British.

Posted by: Hungry Hyaena at July 4, 2005 09:03 PM
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Great post, Chris. My girlfriend's cousin is home from Iraq, and I got to see him at a Fourth of July party. He's really quiet and shy, but he sat down and just started telling me all about how much he hates it there. We probably equalled our combined conversation time over the last 10 years on Sunday afternoon. He's been there since January and, when he goes back Thursday, he's got another six months to go. I asked him what he thought was needed -- more troops, armor, etc. -- to improve things. He sat quiet for a moment and looked off into space, before saying, "We just shouldn't be there, that's all."

I kept trying not to look at him like he was a ghost, but everyone was. You couldn't help it, and I think he was suffering from some pretty bad culture shock, being around his wife and son and everyone else. His wife said that she watched him repair a fuse at their house, and she prayed that he'd be electrocuted. His mom said she prayed that he'd break his leg. How messed up is that?

Posted by: TravisG at July 5, 2005 01:41 PM
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This post is wonderful. Thank You.

Posted by: Jaime at July 7, 2005 10:12 PM
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