On the Casualty Lists

I don’t have a content management system for airbeagle.org, which is where I keep a tally of those sacrificed to the extremist political ideology of the Bush administration. So there is no way to leave comments over there. (You can certainly leave them here on airbeagle.us, however, if you have something to say about the lists. You can also « use the Contact page » to send me an e-mail.)

In the year-and-a-half I’ve been following the casualty lists, I have received many e-mails and comments which are unanimously supportive of keeping a list of the casualties, including several from family and friends of slain soldiers. I have never received a negative comment or e-mail.

Tonight, however, I received an e-mail from a grieving mother, whose fear, anger and bitterness shines between the lines.

Interestingly, for a mother who just lost a son in the mess in Iraq, she, unlike other families who write me, is an obvious Bush fan and, just as obviously, is one of the crowd that, just as during the Vietnam War, believes dissent is treason and that soldiers died to protect lazy hippies’ right to protest. What is implied by that kind of statement is, of course, a certain bitterness that a soldier would die on a foreign battlefield so that a disgusting subhuman back home could express an odious and unAmerican opinion.

My position is that I appreciate the sacrifices of all soldiers in America’s wars over the last two centuries. And I firmly believe that when they sign up for the armed forces, they know that their job is to fight and possibly die for ALL Americans, even those who are beneath contempt, for minorities, for those with unpopular views, for all races, for all creeds, for all religions, for all social classes.

As a soldier, you don’t get to pick the speech you fight and die to protect. You don’t get to say, “I’m a Republican, so I’m here in Vietnam only to fight for the rights of Republicans to support Richard Nixon.” Nope. You’re there for the naked gay hippies smoking crack in Golden Gate Park who will vote for George McGovern too.

And if you and your family can’t accept that reality, perhaps, well, perhaps you should consider a different line of service to your country. One of Bush’s faith-based charities, for instance.

I realize, of course, I’m sounding a bit harsh. But I’m a bit tired of the snarkiness in that kind of attitude, to be perfectly honest.

Look folks. We are ALL Americans. We are ALL equal. We pay taxes that support things we don’t necessarily agree with. My home-schooling sister’s family pays taxes to support public education, which is full of satan worshippers in her opinion. I pay taxes which get squandered for corporate welfare for the likes of Halliburton and SBC and Wal-Mart and Boeing, and I hate that.

But guess what. That’s America. Out of many, one. Live and let live. It’s far from perfect, but better than anything else that’s been tried.

Some would say a casualty list shouldn’t be politicized. I’m always gobsmacked by that concept. People! Terrorism and war ARE political! They are the ultimate politics!

3,000 died on 11-Sep-01 because of a combination of politics and negligence. And thousands more are dead in Iraq because of politics, ignorance, neglect and willful malevolence.

The casualty lists ARE political, regardless of what we might wish them to be. It’s that simple.

Having said that, I grieve for Ms. Barkey. The loss of her son certainly must be leaving a huge hole in her life.

Which is sort of my whole point in keeping up with the casualties. These are men and women who were valuable and irreplaceable, both to the nation and to their families and friends. And while it’s too early to determine if they died in vain, we DO know they died for a lie told in the pursuit of an extremist political agenda.

And that’s wrong. It’s indecent. Immoral. Sinful. Wasteful.

Ms. Barkey and I certainly agree on one thing: her son was a hero. He had a job to do and he did it. More could not be asked of him.

I wish her peace and rest and healing and relief from her bitterness. And forgiveness for those who sent her son to his death with a callousness and disregard for him and his mother.

For the record, here’s her original e-mail and my reply:

On 21 Oct, 2004, at 23:20, Julie Barkey wrote:
‘My son was KIA on July 7th in iraq. His name was Michael C. Barkey. I don’t consider him part of Bush’s body count. He was a hero who died for your right to have this website
‘Freedom isn’t free. I would be terribly afraid for our country if John Kerry is elected.
‘Just thought I’d voice my own freedom of speech.
‘The biggest deterent to terroism is to give them a taste of freedom. That’s what the historic election in Afganistan has done and the what the Iraq election will do.
‘God Bless our Nation.
‘Julie Barkey’

And my reply:

‘Ms. Barkey,
I’m sorry for your loss and thank your son for his sacrifice. He was indeed a hero. Thank you for your comment.
‘Steve Pollock
’”The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
’- Franklin Delano Roosevelt’

Good night, y’all. Peace.