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Steve Weissman: When the Fallen Refuse to Salute

When the Fallen Refuse to Salute

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 14 October 2004

"The Walk of the Fallen," a monument to American GIs who have died in Iraq. Built by Cynthia Moore and Tom Thompson, it is located in Washington State not far from the back gate of Fort Lewis.

We had never talked, but I knew who she was.

Dear Steve,

My son, Spc Casey Austin Sheehan, died on 04/04/04 in Sadr City. He died saving the lives of fellow soldiers. This is what his soul is crying out to me from heaven:

Mom, my work on earth was finished early. You still have work to do. Bring my buddies home before any other moms have to go through what you are. When your work is finished, we'll be together again.

No matter who wins on Nov 2nd, Casey will still be dead Nov. 3rd. The only way to make sure my son has not died in vain is to end this senseless, illegal war and bring the troops home.

Thank you for your beautiful article. My heart breaks for the 1068 murdered young men and women and for their moms.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy was responding to my last column "For What Did We Die, Mr. Bush?" Her answer - and her son's - were far more powerful than anything I could ever write. When I tried to read her letter to my wife Anna, my voice kept breaking.

Other Moms also wrote, along with veterans of this and earlier wars. One couple - Cynthia Moore and Tom Thompson, former Army intelligence analysts - told me of the monument they built to honor the troops who are dying in Mr. Bush's war. They began it right after Mr. Bush announced "Mission Accomplished," and call it "The Walk of the Fallen." Every week, they read out the names of the newly dead.

How different from the Vietnam era, when it took years before serving GIs, returning veterans like young John Kerry, and the families of those who would never return spoke out so vigorously and in such numbers against the party of war. Sadly, it took even longer before many of us who opposed the war from the start learned to listen to what they were saying.

With Iraq, everything has moved far more quickly. If Mr. Bush rushed the country into war, at least half the country took little more than a year to turn against it.

Why such a rapid response?

Many reasons, from the bungling beyond belief of the Bush Administration to the availability of information and analysis on the Internet. A high school student can learn more about this war in an afternoon than many in my generation knew about Vietnam even after Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo published The Pentagon Papers.

But the present surge in anti-war sentiment is due in large part to military Moms like Cindy Sheehan, veterans like the Cynthia Moore and Tom Thompson, and the victims' families of 9/11. True patriots, they have refused to allow Mr. Bush to use the souls of the fallen to sell his war of choice.

In the historic drama Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has Mark Anthony raise Caesar's bloody toga to inflame the Romans against those who have killed their ruler. In America, our leaders historically wave "the bloody shirt," using and abusing the sacrifice of those they have sent to die - and those who died because Washington failed to take heed.

Guided by the echo in his head that he hears as the Voice of God, Mr. Bush has no earthly limits on how he will use the lives and limbs of others to pursue his blessed crusade. But those he sends to do his bidding - and their families as well - are beginning to see the dirty little secret.

Yes, the terrorists are real and need to be fought. But, as we have documented on this site so many times, much of the Bush Administration's "War on Terror" only plays with our fear to allow American corporations to grab control of Iraqi oil reserves and the production capacity of "terrorist hot spots" from Indonesia and Central Asia to Nigeria, Venezuela, and Colombia.

That is not a good enough reason for young Americans like Casey Sheehan - or anyone else - to give their lives.


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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