September 14, 2004


James Lileks took something very interesting away from his encounter with a young DNC canvasser:

“Tell me what you believe,” I said. “Tell me what you feel in your head and heart about John Kerry.”

Whereupon she said that the War in Iraq was wrong and was “killing all those innocent soldiers,” and someone the other day said that if we didn’t elect him Bush would have another 9/11, but she didn’t know who said it.

“But tell me why I should vote for John Kerry,” I said. Gently, mind you. With a smile.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I said I would think about it; I thanked her for her time and closed the door.

I mention this not to prove that DONKS ARE ALL IDIOTS because that’s as boring as REPUGS ARE ALL CROOKS or whatever. Yes, everyone on the other side is evil. Noted. I bring this up because it’s the third time the DNC has sent a canvasser to my neighborhood who’s utterly lost as soon as she gets beyond a talking point. Which means nothing, perhaps; it’s a safe district. Send out the newbies to learn on the job. But I kept thinking of the way she phrased the deaths in Iraq: “all those innocent soldiers.” That’s how some see the soldiers in Iraq.

If asked to describe the attributes of a Marine, “innocent” would not be among the first 100 adjectives I’d employ.

When we inprocessed here, we went to a week-long German language and culture course. Sitting right behind us that week was PFC W, a 21W. He was an 18-year-old mason for the Army, a quiet farm-boy type who called my husband "sir" at the beginning and end of every sentence. He was the poster boy for innocence.

And two weeks later he was on his way to Iraq.

I haven't seen him since he returned, though I did see that Stars and Stripes had interviewed him once. I would wager that he's not the same person that he was when he left. Actually, I'd wager that my impression of him, sitting shyly in that German class, was not entirely accurate either: he was most likely less innocent than he appeared. Perhaps he boarded the plane like some others I've heard of, Soldiers who were immaturely eager to kill some %$&# Iraqis. Now that they've killed, they want nothing more than to never have to do it again.

There are two meanings here for the word innocent: "naive" and "not guilty". Our Soldiers are not naive. Anyone who joined the military thinking he'd never have to participate in anything dangerous or aggressive must have been delusional. Even those who signed up pre-9/11 (as my husband did) should have known the risks involved. Our Soldiers aren't innocent dupes; when they signed the paperwork, they agreed to do a job that most people don't want to think about: they agreed to give their lives for our country.

But if this young woman meant that our Soldiers were "not guilty", then I'd agree with that. We Americans are not guilty of the heinous behavior that many on the European and American Left like to saddle us with. We did not deserve 9/11; we were not guilty. But we certainly were naive. Unlike our Soldiers, who signed a contract and contemplated the dangers beforehand, most of us regular citizens never imagined that we were a target. 9/11 took away our innocence, just as killing the first insurgent took away our Soldiers'. We'd love nothing more than to go back to 9/10, but we can't.

Some commenters here yesterday told me to get over the WTC. 9/11 wasn't that bad; just get over it. 9/11 was bad: it was the day we lost our innocence. That's why I refuse to just get over it.

Many people do watch the news and the deathtoll and wonder why each individual servicemember had to die. What did PFC Poindexter ever do to deserve this? Why should all these young innocent men have to die? Unfortunately, individual Soldiers and Marines have to die so that our country doesn't have to face another 9/11. Why should any of us have to die at the hands of "Islamobarbarians", as Nelson Ascher called them? None of us deserve that, not PFC Poindexter, not those in the WTC, not Nick Berg, not a one of us. We were all innocent, but we are no longer naive.

Lileks is right: innocent is not a good word to describe our Marines. Bad-ass is much better.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:59 AM | Comments (21) | Add Comment
Post contains 760 words, total size 5 kb.

1 Why would you even read Lileks? Like so many other Americas he has decided to live in fear, and lets that fear rule every aspect of his thinking. That's how the terrorists win.

Posted by: A Hermit at September 14, 2004 12:31 PM (Lb9gk)

2 You obviously don't read Lileks, yourself. If you did you would know he is far from living in fear. He takes his daughter all over the place, to many different venues. I don't believe he qualifies for your assumption.

Posted by: Mike at September 14, 2004 02:13 PM (+sj2x)

3, do you think Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had anything to do with Pearl Harbor? If not, why did we not attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with these nations, rather than declaring war on them? Do you think we should have done so? (And yes, I'm aware that Germany declared war on us first. But if we had agreed to stop sending supplies to Britain and give them a free hand in Russia, I'm confident they would have been willing to sign a peace treaty.)

Posted by: David Foster at September 14, 2004 03:31 PM (XUtCY)

4 What I want to know who is going to supply our police forces with protective armor when they come up against the influx of Afghan heroin being pushed by dealers armed with assault weapons. All the army surplus stores are sold out. The manufacturers have committed all their product to the military and nothing is available for the homeland defense.

Posted by: dc at September 14, 2004 04:04 PM (s6c4t)

5 "You obviously don't read Lileks, yourself" Only occasionally, but enough to know that his political opinions are all centred on fear of terrorism. Has nothing to do with where he takes his child; everything to do with the purple prose that passes for political commentary in his articles. He's merely cloying when writing about his daughter (which is forgivable, I've been known to gush about my own kids), but get him on anything political and the fear and loathing rise to the surface. We all think 911 was horrific, but too many Americans have allowed that horror to take over their decision making. I think of all the folks who, like Dennis Miller, have decided that terrorism is the only issue that matters, and that only "Daddy" in the form of George W. Bush can save us; in spite of his failure to capture Osama, to finish the job in Afghanistan, to stay focused on the real enemy or to support the troops with decent equipment, adequate planning and quality care for those who pay the price with their bodies. Fear has overtaken reason in such people. That's what leads to support for irrational policies like invading Iraq virtually alone and on a shoestring. And that's how the terrorists win...

Posted by: A Hermit at September 14, 2004 05:06 PM (Lb9gk)

6 individual Soldiers and Marines have to die so that our country doesn't have to face another 9/11. I'm confused. None of the 19 9/11 hijackers was an Iraqi (15 were Saudis). George W. Bush has admitted that there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 (I'll be happy to give you the cite if you doubt that). So how do the deaths of 1,000+ soldiers in Iraq help prevent another 9/11?

Posted by: Frederick at September 14, 2004 09:01 PM (WH21R)

7 And now thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens have lost THEIR innocence. Well, lost their lives. Tens of thousands of their surviving family and friends have lost their innocence. And so they fight us. It's time Americans lost their innocence about the Iraq war and realized that it's not worth it. The war is creating hatred of America in previously innocent Muslims.

Posted by: yettrab at September 14, 2004 09:21 PM (9AAwc)

8 Did the Iraqis who lost relatives under Saddam's regime retain their innocence?

Posted by: chris at September 14, 2004 11:43 PM (VDzYB)

9 I have never seen so many commentors so blind to reality in my life. You guys have detached yourselves so far from the real world you cannot even begin to entertain the idea that the islamists have been trying to kill as many of us as possible for the last 30 years. They will continue to do so until they are stamped out. Negotiations have failed, treaties have failed, bribery has failed, retreat has failed, you have before you two options, surrender or fight. If you choose to surrender so be it, but understand that I will die fighting. Hijackings, car bombs, suicide belts, airplane bombs, murderous gunmen have been the normal state of affairs for decades now. Shooting children in the back by the hundreds, targetting restaraunts, parties, buses and every conceivable form of innocent person you can imagine. These are not the tactics of the US, but of our enemy. Every bit of diplomacy to get them to stop has failed, and a very strong case can be made for the fact that every concession has only brought more of the same, faster and nastier. If we roll over, retreat from every corner of the world and close our borders and hide on this continent, do you really think they are going to stop? Do you think if we took all the money we have, your income, my income, Bill-freaking-Gate's income, all the corporate earnings and government taxes, and gave it all away that they would stop? Wake up and smell the war. It has been going on for decades, and not by our declaration. It is a fascist ideology that has taken hold, and is trying to spread. Can you not see the forest for the trees? Go ahead and vote to retreat back to decades of appeasement, go ahead and try to placate those that wish for your death. I myself say no more. The past has been demonstrated as a failure. We must fight now, or your children and grand children will curse your failure as they die at the hands of these maniacal murders. But hey, all that pales in comparison when you understand that Bush skipped a PT test or two.....

Posted by: John at September 15, 2004 03:49 AM (crTpS)

10 Frederick, I'm confused, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, there were no German pilots involved, why did we even fight Germany? How did the deaths of thousands of Americans on D-Day (thats in 1 day, not an 18 month campaign) help prevent another Japanese sneak attack? If you honestly try to answer this question, you'll find the answer to yours.

Posted by: John at September 15, 2004 04:37 AM (crTpS)

11 The number of Iraqis dead since March 2003 is by now at least eight times the number of people who died in the World Trade Center. September 11Â… he sat there, reading the paper. As he reached out for the cup in front of him for a sip of tea, he could vaguely hear the sound of an airplane overhead. It was a bright, fresh day and there was much he had to doÂ… but the world suddenly went black- a colossal explosion and then crushed bones under the weight of concrete and ironÂ… screams rose up around himÂ… men, women and childrenÂ… shards of glass sought out tender, unprotected skin Â… he thought of his family and tried to rise, but something inside of him was brokenÂ… there was a rising heat and the pungent smell of burning flesh mingled sickeningly with the smoke and the dustÂ… and suddenly it was blackness. 9/11/01? New York? World Trade Center? No. 9/11/04. Falloojeh. An Iraqi home.

Posted by: A Hermit at September 15, 2004 11:22 AM (0O33+)

12 I'm confused, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, there were no German pilots involved, why did we even fight Germany? Uh, going on a limb here, John -- because Germany had declared war against the United States, perhaps?

Posted by: Frederick at September 15, 2004 08:47 PM (WH21R)

13 John, note also that Germany, Italy, and Japan had entered into the Tripartite Pact on September 27, 1940. The linked site states, According to the stipulation of the Tripartite Pact, Nazi-Germany was required to come to the defense of her allies only if they were attacked. Since Japan had made the first move and attacked, Germany was not obligated to aid. On December 11th, Hitler entered the Reichstag to formally declare war on the United States, thus quenching that US opinion which opposed USA's engagement against the Third Reich. So Germany had entered into a formal military alliance with Japan before Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, the United States, although it declared war against Japan the day after Pearl Harbor, did not declare war against Germany until after Germany declared war against the U.S.

Posted by: Frederick at September 15, 2004 09:14 PM (WH21R)

14 And the fact that Bin Laden, Saddam, and assorted other mideast thugs HAVE NOT declared war on the US? Hello...... you don't see any parrallel? Blind as a bat.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2004 02:53 AM (crTpS)

15 Do you see the answer to your questions? War was declared on us many years ago, but this country refused to answer those declarations, always prefering to negotiate and conceed ground. Now is the time to take their war declarations serious and win the war they declared.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2004 02:55 AM (crTpS)

16 I know that, like Rumsfeld a few days ago, you guys get Osama and Saddam confused (hey, all those Arab leader guys are pretty much the same), but Saddam Hussein neither declared war on us nor was involved in 9/11. We've gotten Saddam, who had nothing to do with 9/11, at the cost of ignoring OBL, who did.

Posted by: Frederick at September 16, 2004 11:32 AM (WH21R)

17 This is not about individuals, this is about fighting a facist movement from the islamic world. Hirohito, Hitler, and Mousillini were all different sides of the same coin, and so are all the tyrants in the islamic world. They are all inextricably linked and the cause of the current problem. You cannot just hunt down one man (OBL) and leave the festering cancer that gives rise to his murderous ideology. The foundations that gives rise to his ilk must be torn up and rebuilt, this cannot be done by begging the cooperation of dictators that spend 10 years defying the rest of the world and funding the movement. But you refuse to see that apparently. Saddam has been firing at the US and other allied troops for 13 years after he was forced from Kuwait, yet you think he hadn't declared war on us? How does that work? Would you have negotiated peace with Hitler to fight Japan?

Posted by: John at September 16, 2004 01:04 PM (+Ysxp)

18 Saddam has been firing at the US and other allied troops for 13 years after he was forced from Kuwait, yet you think he hadn't declared war on us? How does that work? What do you mean? You mean he shot stuff at us when we overflew Northern Iraq? Probably true, but I'm sure we were a hell of a lot more successful at bombing stuff there than Saddam was at shooting at our aircraft. I have a hard time seeing that that justifies a full-scale war against the guy. I have not seen anyone advance that rationale for the war before. Would you have negotiated peace with Hitler to fight Japan? Hell no.

Posted by: Frederick at September 16, 2004 03:33 PM (WH21R)

19 Comparisons with WWII don't work. This is entirely different.

Posted by: yettrab at September 16, 2004 09:13 PM (9AAwc)

20 Over flew northern Iraq? Are you aware of the southern and northern no-fly zones that were maintained by allied forces for 10 years in order to protect the Iraqi people from Saddam's brutality? These were not just 'over flights', they were designed to protect his people from him. He continually tried to shoot down the planes keeping him from murdering his own citizens. He has a well established record of funding terrorist organizations, his intelligence services had members in AQ, as well as hosted training camps in his country. He was an integral part of the problem, and a good place to start. The 16 UN security councils resolutions alone over 12 years justified a full scale war against this guy. Kuwait justified it back in GW1, yet the UN was so scared of the Arab world it refused to let the allies then finish the job. That was probably the biggest global mistake made by the UN in the last 30 years. Imagine what the world would be like now if we had a 10 year start on the reformation of the islamic world, before the idea that the west was a paper tiger and could be bled to surrender. And when I hear people now advocating the continual retreat, I don't understand how you can look at that very policy from the last 30 years and not see it as a complete and utter failure. Retreat and concessions did not bring peace, only more terror. It doesn't work, so why keep trying?

Posted by: John at September 16, 2004 09:18 PM (+Ysxp)

21 You're basing your feel-good on... what, John?

Posted by: yettrab at September 21, 2004 01:47 AM (9AAwc)

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