25 Oct 2005

1999 and counting

365 and a Wakeup is a great military blog that I read often. A few days ago, he wrote about the funeral of SGT Jerry Lee Bonifacio Jr. that he attended. As we will be topping 2,000 military deaths probably within the next few days, please keep this in mind. Whenever you hear that there were four Marines killed in Baghdad yesterday, remember that this happens four more times.
The memorial ceremony for SGT Bonifacio took place in the elegant remains of one of Saddam’s palatial buildings. Rows after row of simple folding chairs cradled his grieving friends, their heads bent in silent reverie.
The orderly rows of chairs were framed by tall fluted columns, as elegant in their fashion as those in the Parthenon. Groups of soldiers stood beneath these pillars, their eyes fixed on the simple memorial that served as a physical reminder of our painful loss.
During the ceremony SGT Bonifacio’s entire chain of command honored our fallen warrior, their words giving shape and substance to the pain and loss laying heavy in the air. They were followed by SGT Helk, one of SGT Bonifacio’s closest friends. He shared his private memories of SGT Bonifacio – the songs he would hum in the mornings, and the way he would blare his radio at the end of a long shift. He remembered his friend happily thumbing through the latest comic books, or helping some of the other troops defeat the latest video game.
And above all he remembered the deep and lasting optimism that suffused every aspect of SGT Bonifacio’s being.
What has SGT Bonifacio's death gained us? I would argue largely nothing but huge debt and more danger and hatred aimed at the United States. However, for the Iraqi people, it has gained a whole new world:
(Iraqi soldier and local boy holding up a sign indicating a polling place on election day, taken by the author of “365 and a Wakeup”)
I have always thought this Iraq war a mistake – a grevious error of judgement by an overzelous administration misguided by power and unthinking ideology. I do not think it was in the best interests of the U.S. or our future foreign policy.
However, I know that any list of genocides in the 20th century will contain Saddam and his slaughter of the Kurds in the 80's. I absolutely believe he needed to be overthrown and put to justice. It should not have been unilateral, it should not have been under WMD pretenses, it should not have been nearly two decades after the fact. Though unfortunately his overthrow was far too delayed for any other dictator to learn a neccesary lesson, his overthrow is obviously a good thing. Our troops are doing an incredible job under difficult and often unfair circumstances, democracy seems to be slowly winning, and Saddam is currently standing trial. The Iraqi people are gaining hugely, despite many setbacks, at a heavy cost to America in money and lives.
So where do we go from here? Well, I'll leave my “official” Iraq position for a later post, but as the 2,000th soldier gives his or her life for this adventure, I would ask everyone to think about this from a different point of view than they normally would. A moment of silence for the lost lives and selfless sacrifice, a short prayer for one more country becoming a constitutional democracy. Whether or not you think one was worth the other, original intention or not, I will leave up to you.
We'll talk about Iraq again very shortly.
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