2000 is just a number. When you are adding up the calculus of war, it's nothing, really. One day at Antietam or Pont Du Hoc claimed more American lives. One day in the Congo claims more lives today. So it doesn't help to look at that number, 2000. It helps to look at one:
This kid on the left is Andrew Bedard. He's from Missoula, Montana.
He is 19. This picture is only two years old.
His friends were surprised when he joined the Marines. He didn't seem the gung-ho type. When they would ask him about going to Iraq, he would joke about being stationed to Hawaii.
He is an only child.
His parents are divorced.
He wants to come home and go to the University of Montana. He calls his friends from Iraq, sometimes in the middle of the night, and asks them if they'll still be around when he gets back in four years. It's hard being away from them. He reminds them of how good they have it back in Missoula. In Iraq, everyone is poor and things are pretty much destroyed.
He has a dog named Boingo.
He's a bit shy, but still manages to be popular.
He had been in Iraq a month when he was killed October 4th.
Here's what someone posted on a memorial site for Andrew:"An entire country is now free for the first time in living memory and your name will forever be remembered in Marine Corp history. In the years to follow as other countries in the Middle East start to follow the great freedom principle, it’ll be men like you will stand above and look down on a safer and more secure and peaceful world."
Maybe the worst part of it is that Andrew died for an experiment, a gamble taken by men and women he didn't know, an experiment to see if they could prove a theory they had about foreign policy. No, all kinds of bullshit theories:
American Greatness Conservatism.
Draining the Swamp.
The Exportation of Democracy.
Re-Making the Map of the Middle East.
Securing Our Energy Reserves.
The End Of History.
Fighting Terrorists On Their Home Turf.
Re-Defining American Power After the Cold War.
The Islamic Ring Of Fire.
The Clash of Civilizations.
In forty years starting in 1932, government doctors in Tuskegee, Alabama, purposely did not treat black men with syphilis so that they could study the effects of the disease. This is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American governance, when the powerful decided to do away with the powerless as a way of testing their pet ideas.
Well, at least the Tuskegee Experiment was an attempt to treat a crippling, deadly disease, and at least it had the nobility of a good end, even if that end was polluted by such horrific means. The current Neo-Conservative experiment we are undertaking in Iraq has no such noble goal. It's all about finding more useful ways to project American power, whether that power is used for better or for worse. It's about seeing how far the principles of this country can be stretched, bruised, and worn out in the pursuit of that power. It's about ego, the ego of men who have bided their time and spent their lives scratching away in the hopes of finally achieving a Straussian Gnosis, a secret knowledge that would place them in charge, inconvenient facts and the lessons of history and the voices of caution be damned. They are in charge now, and their knowledge has failed. But the price won't be posted to their door.
I have a confession; I supported the war. I was one of the "liberal hawks" who focused only on the (true) horror of the Hussein regime, without listening to the nagging doubts of caution and the fear of pride that I felt right above my belt. No, I too was swept up in the bright hubristic vision, and thought that we could re-make the broken map. I remember thinking such silly things at the time:The invasion will be welcomed, after the people realize Hussein is gone for good.
Iraq is at heart a middle-class country.
We could move our bases out of Saudi Arabia, and have a stable base of power in the Middle East.
The other Satrapies will democratize because of our example in Iraq, and our menace.
If the Shia and Sunnis and Kurds don't get along, we'll just break the country up.
We're the only remaining superpower. We have a moral obligation to project power against dictators.
See the other 1999