Friday, November 26, 2004

Why? 11-26-04

Nov. 26, 2004
By Ray Hanania

My local newspaper ran almost four pages of small photos of soldiers, captioned with the names, ranks, ages, hometowns, and dates that each were killed in Iraq.

It's a common thing to publish the faces of fallen soldiers, especially around holidays. Not so common is to publish the list of seriously wounded.

The dead are so much easier to handle. They die and are forgotten to the public. The wounded remain in our faces -- demanding things like hospitalization, disability benefits and costs that go on long after wars end.

More than 1,200 Americans have been killed in Iraq, the Vietnam-like war that no one wants to compare to Vietnam.

But I have one simple question.


Why did they die? Patriotism? Terrorism? Politics? Profits? Racism? The answer depends on your politics, I guess.

Maybe it was to defend America from another terrorist attack.

Or maybe it was to distract the public from the fact that many of the people who did business with certain politically connected firms were friends and relatives of Osama bin Laden.

I recall that during the Vietnam War, the patriotism was heavy and questions like "Why?" were frowned upon. We were told we were winning the war, but we weren't and didn't find out until it was too late, and our soldiers had to flee as the insurgents of ragtag guerrillas converged on our embassy.

Like the Viet Cong, the Iraqi insurgents who are defending their country do not have the technologically superior weapons systems that our American forces brought with them when we launched the unprovoked attack on March 19, 2003.

And like the Viet Cong, the Iraqi insurgents are proving to be formidable opponents. The drive to defeat the occupiers and achieve independence is a powerful force, even more so than concepts like "democracy."

Oh yes. They have their terrorists, although we didn't use the phrase terrorism during the Vietnam War as easily as we use it today.

But the fact is that not all of the Iraqi insurgents are terrorists, even if the biased American news establishment calls them such in their one-sided, self-censored coverage.

For every atrocity broadcast on American TV where an Iraqi has butchered an American, there are probably just as many atrocities being committed by American forces against innocent Iraqis.

We know that many of the insurgents we capture have been murdered in cold blood by people hailed in this country as "heroes." Imagine that a person who viciously murders a prisoner, a civilian or an unknown potential suspect is held up as a symbol of what we stand for as a nation. To much of the American media, those who report these crimes are worse than the criminals, just as Americans who ask "Why?" are denounced as anti-American and unpatriotic.

Personally, I think how you win a war is more important than simply winning a war.

It was a lesson we learned -- and forgot -- during the Vietnam War.

More importantly, I guess, is that it is easy to throw the faces of the dead at the public. It feeds public emotion and prevents war criticism from gaining in popularity.

As long as it's not your kid, I guess we can fight to the last son or daughter. Not your son or daughter. Someone else's son or daughter.

As long as the faces of the dead in the newspaper are strangers, we can afford to feel patriotic sympathy.

I know that regardless of whether they support or oppose the war, the sons and daughters forced to fight have no choice, unlike the children of privilege who have not been nor ever will be called to active duty service in Iraq. The issue really isn't even the public's attitude. America continued to fight the Vietnam War long after it was clear most Americans no longer supported it, or at least had begun to seriously question it.

But when the names under the photos of the dead in American newspapers include the names of clout like Bush, Hastert, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Frist, Santorum and Ridge, you can bet the war in Iraq would stop on a proverbial dime.

Throw in a few more surnames like Hannity, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Hume and Coulter, and ending the war would suddenly become patriotism. But that won't happen.

So right around the holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, newspapers around the country will continue to fill their pages with the names and faces of the most recent to die. And if you ask "Why?" you'll be denounced, vilified and attacked as anti-American and unpatriotic. As long as it isn't your son or daughter, why should you care?


To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Originally Published on Friday November 26, 2004

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