Sunday, September 12, 2010

Carlos’s belated realization that a “Good Soldier” kills (revised and updated, September 18)

On September 1, 2010, President Obama declared an end to combat operations in Iraq.

Even so, Bush’s war can hardly be declared "Mission Accomplished.” Iraq has not delivered the outcome envisioned by the Bush administration, or by those who supported the war.

And, as expressed by Political Animal’s Steve Benen, “There's still, obviously, a precarious environment on the ground. Iraqi politicians are still struggling badly to form a government; deadly violence is not uncommon; and no one is quite sure what will unfold in the absence of U.S. combat brigades. With tens of thousands of troops, and many more private contractors, still in Iraq, anyone who thinks this is ‘over’ is mistaken.”

On September 11, 2001, 2,977 lives were lost. After the collapse of the World Trade Center, workers were exposed to toxic dust and fumes. People who breathed harmful air on their way to work were affected. There is an indeterminate number for those injured and who will have lifelong physical and mental health disabilities.

Unquestionably, 9/11 was a horrific attack. However, Operation Iraqi Freedom produced 4,736 combatant casualties, an estimated 97,814 – 106,752 civilians were killed, and an indeterminate number of lifelong combatant and non-combatant traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, other mental ailments, and physical wounds. Long-term societal effects on the lives of combatants and non-combatants, and their families, also are indeterminate. How about the children of Iraq who have only examples of violence in their lives, long-term, how is this war’s grief going to affect them? As adults, what will their disposition be? Will it be alienation? What will be the total cost of our retribution?

A case in point of how war affects families is the heartbreaking story of Carlos Arredondo of Jamaica Plain as told in “They Kill Alex,” by Chris Hedges. Carlos lost a son, Alex, a 20-year-old Marine who was in the first units to invade Iraq was killed in action on his second tour of duty in An Najaf, Iraq on August 25, 2004.

When Carlos was advised of his son's death, he called out “Mama! They are telling me Alex got killed! Alex got killed! They kill Alex! His mother crumbled in grief. Carlos went to the large picture of his son in the living room and held it.” Out of anguish and grief, he set afire the Marine Corp van of those who brought him such devastating news. Carlos burned 26% of his body in the process. It’s the ultimate anguish of a father who lost his son in war.

Chris Hedges writes in his column, “Alex usually asked his father not to ‘forget’ him, but now, increasingly in the final days of his life, another word was taking the place of forget. It was forgive. He felt his father should not forgive him for what he was doing in Iraq. Don’t forgive me, Dad.” The sentence bewildered him, until, as Carlos says, “I thought, when he died, my God, he has killed somebody.”

Carlos’s belated realization is one that Americans ignore as well. Too many Americans fail to have the fundamental comprehension that war is all about death and destruction. They “prefer to keep war sanitized and wrapped in the patriotic slogans of glory, honor and heroism.” However, as depicted in the documentary film, “The Good Soldier,” the brutal reality is that a soldier is taught to kill. It’s their job.

Carlos says, “This is what happens every week to some family in America. This is what war does. And this is the grief and pain the government does not want people to see.” "Operation New Dawn," the Iraq mission’s new phase, will not change that fact.

On September 15th, two American Soldiers were killed in Iraq and two more American families are now facing Carlos’s realization.