Memorial Day is unfolding as a beautiful day here in Southern Indiana. The sky is clear and the temperature is warm. Soon we'll have the smoker fired up to cook ribs. We'll clean up the sticks and debris from last night's thunderstorm, then do a little work around the yard and garden. About mid-afternoon we expect several of Will's friends to join us for a cookout. For us, it's another day in Paradise, living the American dream.
But I've recently had two vivid reminders of what Memorial Day is all about.
First: Last Friday I was listening to NPR's "Morning Edition" as I drove to work. Steve Inskeep was interviewing retired Marine General Anthony Zinni. General Zinni had some very blunt criticisms of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq. He said that the military was given unrealistic objectives that have led to unnecessary loss of life. "We [The Bush Administration] were in there talking about Jeffersonian democracy, free market economies, changing the face of the Middle East with this one blow. That was ridiculous, and I think now what we have is young kids paying the price..."
Gen. Zinni went on to comment that he had heard on the news that morning that three more Marines had died in Iraq, but that it was not the lead story -- it was number 3, behind the results from "American Idol". Gen. Zinni was concerned that a loss of focus on the human cost of the war will lead to a situation similar to Vietnam.
Second: Gen. Zinni's point was brought home in a very graphic way by yesterday's Doonesbury comic strip. Gary Trudeau filled his entire 6 cartoon panels with the names of soldiers killed in Iraq from the beginning of the war through April 23,2004. He provided a pointer to www.lunaville.org, a web site that maintains a detailed tally of casualties from the US, UK and other countries. At the time of this post, the US casualty count stands at 813.
The View from the Roof today is that we must not allow our soldiers' sacrifice to go unnoticed or, worse, to be trivialized in the media. We need to see the numbers every day, first thing, not as part of some grim exercise in scorekeeping, but as a prompt to continually demand an answer to the bottom line question: "Why is this happening?" More importantly, we must continue to demand accountability from the government officials and policy makers that started this war. (Let's start by firing Donald Rumsfeld!) One of the mistakes of the Vietnam era was that we confused the targets of our opposition -- blaming the soldiers for the mistakes of their generals and the elected policy makers. There are many today who maintain that any criticism of the war or the current administration somehow equates to lack of support for the troops. I think we're smart enough to tell the difference.
(You can hear the entire interview with Gen. Zinni here: http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=1912641 )