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William Rivers Pitt: Silent Night

Silent Night

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 26 December 2005

The first paragraph of the story reads, "An Ohio soldier was killed in Iraq on Christmas Eve when he was attacked by enemy forces, the Department of Defense announced Sunday." This lost soldier from Ohio is one of 2,168 who have died in Iraq. His death is no harder than all the others, no less wrenching for his family. Somehow, however, this death on Christmas Eve brought an extra twist of the knife for me, though I did not know the man, and now, never will.

I'm not sure why. Certainly I am thinking of his family, who found out the day before Christmas that a beloved son was gone. I cannot even begin to imagine their sorrow. They experienced, along with every other family of every soldier fighting over there, the fear of that knock on the door, or that phone call, or that telegram. On Christmas Eve, the terrible message came. Santa brought them a crisply folded American flag, and the thanks of a grateful nation. Christmas will never be the same for them, ever. There are no words for this. None.

Perhaps I am also thinking about the much-ballyhooed "War on Christmas" we have been hearing so much about of late. That foolishness may be over thanks to the rolling of calendar pages, but the rank idiocy of it all will linger for a while. Anyone who attempts to genuinely convince you that there is some sort of organized assault on Christmas is either astonishingly stupid, irrevocably deluded, trying to sell you something, or trying to distract your attention from something. As this is America in the waning days of 2005, it could very easily be all four.

In case you haven't noticed, Christmas is doing just fine. Leave aside the fact that Jesus-shouting hypocrites have managed to occupy every office of national significance and power. Leave aside the fact that these Jesus-shouting hypocrites are celebrating Christmas along with a majority of the country, said majority being comprised of entirely sane Christians who are wondering how these benighted yahoos managed to steal their religion. Leave aside all the Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and advertisements for Christmas shopping opportunities that have bombarded anyone dumb enough to turn on a television since early November.

This whole thing was ginned up by a fantastically wretched fool on the Fox News Channel named John Gibson. He recently wrote a book titled - can you guess? - "The War on Christmas," and his network graciously agreed to beat the drum so he could sell his book.


The only war on Christmas happening in the last week was fought by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who are away from family and in harm's way, many for their second or third tours.

The war on Christmas this past week was fought by tens of thousands of soldiers who are learning how to face life without an arm, without a leg, without eyes, without a face, with permanent brain damage, and perhaps worst of all, with the prospect of diminished veterans benefits because those benefits were cut by an administration that needs money to pay for the production of more wounded soldiers.

The war on Christmas this past week was fought by tens of thousands of Iraqi families who have had friends and loved ones killed, maimed or tortured.

The war on Christmas this past week was fought by tens of thousands of American families who have friends and loved ones in harm's way, or in a hospital, or six feet under the ground.

On Saturday night, the war on Christmas was fought by a family in Ohio who will never see their beloved boy again.

On Sunday, the war on Christmas was fought by a friend of my mother named Frank, whose son has been deployed to Iraq for the last year. He has remained mercifully unharmed, and is scheduled to rotate home on Tuesday, December 27. For Frank, his wife, and their family, the war on Christmas is represented by the slow passage of seconds, the agonizing awareness of the gulf of time that stands between right now and his safety. Two days? An eternity. Just ask that family from Ohio.

Cindy Sheehan fought the war on Christmas, passing the holiday without her beloved son Casey, who was killed in Iraq. "Peace on Earth is not just a platitude to sing about or stick on Christmas cards," she wrote in an email that came on Christmas Eve. "It is a value worth giving everything for."

Take a silent moment tonight and offer a thought or prayer to that Ohio family. Take a silent moment to offer a thought or prayer for the safe return of Frank's son. Take a silent moment to offer a thought or prayer to all of the families for whom this Iraq occupation is more than fleeting images on the television.

Take a silent moment and consider what you will do in the New Year - what you will give - to bring about the peace on Earth that Cindy Sheehan spoke of.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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