'He Did Not Die For Your Freedom'

Chase Johnson Comley

He is number 1,828, 1,829, or 1,830. We don't know for sure, because so many died that week. Our marine, Chase Johnson Comley, was killed when his vehicle was hit head-on by a suicide bomber. His death admits us to a club no one wants to join, a membership of grieving, questioning families who have heard the dreaded ring of the doorbell, a sound that reverberates in their worst imaginings and in their nightmares, and a messenger's words, "We regretfully inform you that your son..." You instantly realize that nothing you've thought, done, or felt has prepared you for this reality. The feeling is so much worse than a broken heart. It is an evisceration.

As I write this, Chase is being flown to Dover. His 6'4" body is in a coffin draped with the American flag. He loved his family, his country, his Sayre classmates, and his life, but we don't believe he loved his mission in Iraq. When recruited, he told us he'd be deployed to Japan. He called every week when he wasn't in the field to tell us he was counting the days until his return. He tried to sound upbeat, probably for our benefit, but his father, my brother, could detect in Chase's voice more than a hint of futility, and will never say "my son died doing what he loved."

For those of you who still trust this administration (your percentage diminishes every day), let me tell you that Chase Johnson Comley did not die to preserve your freedoms. He was not presented flowers by grateful Iraqis welcoming him as their liberator. My nephew died, fighting a senseless war for oil and for contracts, insuring the increased wealth of Bush and his administration's friends. He died long after George Bush, in his testosterone-charged, theatrical, soldier-for-a-day role, announced on an aircraft carrier beneath the banner, Mission Accomplished, that "major combat was over." He died in a country erupting into civil war and turned into a hellhole by George Bush, a place where democracy has no chance of prevailing, a country which will, instead, most likely be a theocracy, much like Saudi Arabia.

Have we won the "hearts and the minds" of the Iraqi people? Apparently not. Have we spent more than half a trillion dollars -- an amount that continues to rise -- on a war that King Abdullah advised Bush against because it would disrupt the entire Middle East? Apparently so.

Consider what this money could have done for healthcare, our children's education, or for a true humanitarian intervention in Sudan. And then think about the inauguration of George Bush. Picture the lavish parties, the couture gown worn by Laura, and imagine the cost of the security for this event. And then think about Rumsfeld when he visits our troops. Picture his heavily armored vehicle, the same kind that transports Saddam Hussein to and from court -- those machines that are impregnable to almost anything the insurgents toss in their paths, while our troops are not provided sufficient armor to survive an improvised explosive device.

Think of the mismanagement of this entire war effort. Think of Vietnam. Consider what we've lost. Too much. Think of what we've gained. Nothing. And think of someone who says, "We will not cut and run," but who cut and ran years ago when he was called. Think about a man who speaks about a "culture of life" when the words fit some wedge issue like abortion or the right to die when medical effort has failed. And then think about this war, Bush's not-so-intelligently-designed culture of death.

Think, too, about naming a campaign "Shock and Awe" as if it's a movie and, therefore, unreal. And then think that this, perhaps, is one of the problems. For many Americans, the war is an abstraction. But it is not an abstraction for the innocent Iraqis whose lives have been devastated by our "smart bombs." And it certainly is not an abstraction for those of us who have heard the words that have changed our lives forever.

So please, think of my family's grief, a grief that will never end. Think of all the families. Think of the wounded, the maimed, and psychologically scarred. And, then, consider this: The preservation of our freedom rests not on American imperialism. It depends on actively changing foreign policies that are conquest oriented, policies that dehumanize, not only our own young who become fodder for endless war but also those in other countries who are so distant that they become abstract. The answer definitely is not Bush's mantra, "They're jealous of our freedoms."

And, finally, think about the promises of those flowers. It's one of the many lies. Like the weapons of mass destruction. Or that we'd be welcomed as liberators. The flowers for Chase Johnson Comley will be presented not by grateful Iraqis but by those honoring him as he's lowered to his grave and buried in our hearts.

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