Andrew Bacevich has a wrenching piece in today’s Washington Post on the death of his son in Iraq. He relates what a few great patrioteers had to say to him about his son’s death:
Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son’s death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.
This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war.
But it’s the lip-service from politicians like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, who listen politely but heedlessly to Professor Bacevich’s criticisms of the war, who have really driven him to reconsider just how well the Republic is holding up these days. To whom do the Bushes, Kerrys, and Kennedys listen? Lobbyists, of course:
Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.
Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.’s life is priceless. Don’t believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier’s life: I’ve been handed the check. It’s roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.
Bacevich ends on a note of near despair for the country; he thinks his own efforts have been wasted. They haven’t been. His 2001 book, American Empire, is still the most important single foreign-policy book to have been published this decade, and his later New American Militarism is up there as well. It will take a long, long time before the American public, or really its leadership class, absorbs the lessons of this war and long half-century and more of misguided foreign-policy. But if they learn the lesson at all I suspect it will be in large part to the efforts of Andrew Bacevich and others like him.