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U.S. deaths in Iraq pass 4,000

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By Rick Howell

Iraq war death number 4,000 happened as a result of a roadside bomb, which has been a typical way our troops have died in that war.

As we reached this dubious milestone in a war that seemingly has no end, the USA Today newspaper made a commendable effort to put names and details on the numbers.

It reported, for example, that more than half (52 percent) of the 4,000 U.S. deaths were from bombs. Only 16 percent died by enemy gunfire.

One in 6 were too young to buy a beer, but they were expected to risk their lives in George W. Bush’s war. The paper offered lists of brief biographies of those killed in every year of this war.

Here are just two examples: Army Sgt. 1st class Christopher R. Brevard left a wife and two daughters, Emily, 9, and Jessica, 7. Army Pfc. William N. Davis and his wife, Renae, were expecting a son. These children, like so many others, will grow up without a father.

Many people don’t like to focus on the fact that the Americans dying in Iraq aren’t characters in a video game. Even the administration, at first, banned pictures of coffins coming back to this country. It was too brutal a sight for a White House that needed political support for a war against a country, and a people, that never attacked or threatened us in any serious way.

Yes, we have a volunteer army, and people who join the military know the risks. But that is not, and never should be, used as an excuse to justify unnecessary wars. Some people, in their defense of this war, have come very close to saying that, and they should be ashamed.

There is no issue for any society that is more profound than the basic question of war and peace. Tax cuts or increases, budgets - most of the stuff of government - doesn’t get young people killed. It doesn’t take young lives, send them to foreign lands, and ask that they die in strange places, a long way from their homes and their families.

That’s what war is; it’s nothing less than that. It should follow by simple logic - not to mention the value of young lives - that we should never, ever engage in it unless it is absolutely necessary. Most Americans know, including many of those who support this president, that this war was not necessary.

You can’t say that those who have died “died for our freedoms,” because it’s just not true. There wasn’t one iota of our freedom at stake in Iraq before we decided to invade. This war was one of choice, one made for political reasons by a president who surrounded himself with people who wanted as much as he did to remove Saddam Hussein.

They got what they wanted, didn’t they? And we’re still over there; our troops are still dying, and Bush will never acknowledge anything except his mindless belief that everything he decides is always right. As far as I’m concerned, he is personally responsible for each and every one of the 4,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq. He has already been held accountable by an overwhelming majority of Americans who have rejected his tragic presidency. Maybe a higher power will hold him accountable in a different way.

How much longer does it go on? How many more Americans have to die? Again, no issue is more profound than war and peace. We should hang our heads in shame at what has been done to this generation of young Americans.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com