I recently appeared on the November 11, 2003 episode of the Montel Williams show. The program featured guests who had lost loved ones in the war in Iraq. One of the guests, Kathy Dowdy, recalled hearing that her husband, 1st Sgt. Robert Dowdy, had been killed: "They found 11 shallow graves. One of the bodies was my husband. He was a first sergeant of 507th Main--Maintenance Unit. Couldn't ask for a better husband. Gave up his life for us. He took somebody else's place going to Iraq. He wasn't supposed to go to Kuwait at all," recalled Dowdy, tears streaming silently down her cheek.
1st Sgt. Dowdy was just one of 141 American servicemen who have been killed in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to the major fighting on May 1.
His sacrifice reminds us that war is a horror where one is ordered to kill strangers, to run in the face of enemy fire, to ignore the sight of his friends as they crumple to the ground. There is a scene in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, in which a young man has his arm blown off. He stumbles around, gazing at his shattered limb, unsure of what to do. War is confusion.
War is detached horror. I mention this only to point out that those Americans who grapple with war, do so to preserve man's best, his institutions of freedom, democracy, and individuality. Or as Mrs. Dowdy put it, "This is what career soldiers do."
Last week, 16 American servicemen were killed after their helicopter was shot down over Baghdad, in the deadliest attack against US forces since the war began on March 20. Reflecting concerns that US Troops are mired in a guerilla war, Senator Robert Byrd (R-W.VA) wrote in an Op-Ed that the occupation is "spiral[ing] out of control."
"Our military action in Iraq has forged a caldron of contempt for America, a dangerous brew that may poison the efforts of peace throughout the Middle East and result in the rapid invigoration of worldwide terrorism," continued Byrd.
As increasing numbers of American servicemen come home in caskets, the President's job approval rating has slipped to the mid-50s, after peaking around 90% following the September 11 attacks.