Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in
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. By encouraging “the terrorists,” opponents of the
What exactly is a father’s duty when his son is sent into harm’s way?
Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.
As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of
I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. “The long war is an unwinnable one,” I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. “The
Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others – teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks — to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in
This, I can now see, was an illusion.
The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to
To be fair, responsibility for the war’s continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son’s death, my state’s senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son’s wake. Kerry was present for the funeral
To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove – namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.
Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to
Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.’s life is priceless. Don’t believe it. I know what value the
Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over
This is not some great conspiracy. It’s the way our system works.
In joining the Army, my son was following in his father’s footsteps: Before he was born, I had served in
I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.
Andrew J. Bacevich teaches history and international relations at