BOB HERBERT: Another Thousand Lives
- Another Thousand Lives
By BOB HERBERT
January 4, 2007
How long can this go on?
Saddam is dead. The weapons of mass destruction were a mirage. More
than 3,000 American G.I.s and scores of thousands of Iraqis have been
killed. Voters in the United States have made it clear that they no
longer support American involvement in this exercise in sustained
barbarism. Incredibly, the U.S. military itself is turning against the
And yet the president, against the counsel of his commanders on the
ground, apparently is ready to escalate to send more American lives
into the fire he set in Iraq.
In a devastating critique of the war, the newsweekly Army Times led
its current edition with the headline: "About-Face on the War After
3 years of support, troops sour on Iraq." The article detailed a
Military Times Poll that found, for the first time, that "more troops
disapprove of the president's handling of the war than approve of it."
Only a third of the service members surveyed approved of the
president's conduct of the war, while 42 percent disapproved. Perhaps
worse was the finding that only half of the troops believed that
success in Iraq was likely.
The service members made it clear that they were not attacking their
commander in chief personally. His overall approval rating remained
high. What has turned them off has been the wretched reality of the
war. In the article, David Segal, director of the Center for Research
on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, said, "They're
seeing more casualties and fatalities and less progress."
In other words, they're seeing the same thing everybody else is seeing
except, perhaps, Mr. Bush.
On New Year's Day, readers of The New York Times could see the
excruciating photo layout of the latest 1,000 American service members
to die in Iraq. As in all wars, most of them were young. Many of them
were smiling in the photos. All of them died unnecessarily.
The war has been an exercise in futility and mind-boggling
incompetence, and yet our involvement continues with no end in
sight, no plans for withdrawal, no idea of where we might be headed
as if the U.S. had fallen into some kind of bizarrely destructive
trance from which it is unable to awaken.
And who is paying the price for this insanity apart from ordinary
Iraqis, who are paying the most grievous price of all? The burden of
the war in the U.S. is being shouldered overwhelmingly by a contingent
of Americans whom no one would categorize as economically privileged.
As Lizette Alvarez and Andrew Lehren wrote in Monday's Times:
"The service members who died during this latest period fit an
unchanging profile. They were mostly white men from rural areas,
soldiers so young they still held fresh memories of high school
football heroics and teenage escapades. Many men and women were in
Iraq for the second or third time. Some were going on their fourth,
fifth or sixth deployment."
There is no way that this can be justified. It is just wrong.
I've said many times that if a war is worth fighting the way to do it
is to mobilize the entire country, drawing the warriors from as wide a
swath of the population as possible and raising taxes on everyone as
part of an all-out effort to defeat a common enemy.
This war is not worth fighting. And if there were ever serious talk
about enacting a draft or raising taxes to fight it, you'd see quickly
enough that the vast majority of Americans would not find it worth
There must be a leader somewhere who can shake the U.S. out of this
tragic hypnotic state, who can see that it is beyond crazy to continue
our involvement in this war indefinitely, to sacrifice another 1,000
young lives, and then another thousand after that.
All of the tortured, twisted rationales for this war all of the
fatuous intellectual pyrotechnics dreamed up to justify it have
vaporized, and we're left with just the mad, mindless, meaningless and
apparently endless slaughter.
Shakespeare, in "Henry VI," said: "Now thou art come unto a feast of
We should end our participation in the feast of death in Iraq. It is
criminal to continue feeding our troops into the slaughter.
If there were politicians here at home with some of the courage of the
troops in the field, we could begin saving lives rather than watching
helplessly as the Bush White House continues to sacrifice them. Three
thousand and counting is enough.
Key Senate Democrats support Bush troop escalation
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