Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Death of Andrew Bacevich, Jr.

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Dear God, this post at Wizbang makes me so angry (link at Memeorandum):

First Lt. Andy Bacevich, son of Boston University professor and war critic Andrew J. Bacevich, was tragically killed by an IED in Iraq on May 13th. Lieutenant Bacevich was stationed out of Fort Hood, Texas, and although his asthma kept him from joining ROTC, the Army accepted him after he graduated, and he joined willingly. His sister, Jennifer, tells us what Andy was like:

Bacevich's sister, Jennifer Bacevich, 34, said her brother joined the Army after he wasn't able to enroll in ROTC because of his asthma. When the military eased its restrictions, he went on to train to be an officer.

Despite his asthma, Jennifer said her brother was active and athletic.

"He was a guy who liked to run marathons," she said. "He liked to be with his friends. He was a real funny guy."

"He liked to run. He liked to play soccer."

Her brother was single at the time of his death, she said.

Andy's sister Katy also helps us get to know her brother:

Katy Bacevich, 22, one of the soldier's three sisters, recalled her brother as a born leader who answered a calling to serve his country. Andrew Bacevich joined the Army in July 2004 and had been stationed in Iraq since October with the Third Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division.

"He felt it was an important thing to do, regardless of the war that was going on," she said. Despite her father's strong feelings about the conflict, Katy Bacevich said, "he never would discourage my brother from doing what he wanted to do."

The sacrifice Lieutenant Bacevich made is one of which I will always be in awe. What was it about his character that compelled him to put his life at risk for millions of Americans he would never meet? I didn't know Lieutenant Bacevich, but he willingly risked and ultimately sacrificed his life for me and my family. How do I say thank you? Words are simply not enough.

Now Professor Bacevich and his family will begin planning Andy's funeral, and it will be the hardest thing they will ever do. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Bacevich family as they begin the process of saying good bye.

What a sanctimonious and self-serving piece of crap. Andrew Bacevich, Jr., was killed by an improvised explosive device while on combat patrol in a senseless war. How on earth does that become sacrificing his life for Kim Priestap and her family? How in god's name did he make her family safer by getting blown to pieces by an IED because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Try making sense out of that, if you can.

I have much more respect for a post like this, even more so when it's written by someone who believes the war is necessary and right:

Mentioning [Professor Bacevich's opposition to the Iraq war] is unavoidable. We did, too. Though at this point, I think it’s more about a family’s loss. A beloved son who followed in his father’s footsteps and gave his life for his country, as his father had put himself in harm’s way in another war four decades before. So Andy Bacevich begins the terrible journey of a father who has to bury a son, and decide for himself what it means.

I’m going to my 11-year-old son’s baseball games and band concerts these days, only wondering where life will take him. It breaks my heart to think of a father’s dreams shattered and it is all I can do not to sob at the thought of it.

I’m sorry for your loss, Andy. It sounds like you have a son you can be proud of.

Steve Clemons has written a moving post that many bloggers are linking to:

Or any of our sons? or daughters? on any side of this incredibly reckless escapade in Iraq?

Boston University Professor Andrew J. Bacevich is a brave, thoughtful public intellectual who has tried -- in reserved, serious terms -- to challenge the legitimacy of the Iraq War. He has been one of the most articulate leading thinkers among military-policy dissident conservatives who have exposed the inanity of this war and the damage it has done. He authored the critically-acclaimed book, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.

Now his son by the same name who was serving in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom is dead -- announced today by the Department of Defense. ...

To get some insight into the pain Professor Bacevich, who teaches at Boston University, must now feel, read this clip from a moving and important article he wrote titled "What's an Iraqi Life Worth?" [Washington Post, 9 July 2006] ...

Now we must add to the count of this tragic conflict another American son -- and of course, more Iraqi sons and daughters and American daughters.

I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Bacevich at the home of former Congressman Dave McCurdy this last holiday season. We spoke for a bit about the Iraq war as well as the absence of American strategy and dearth of strategists in government today. I had no idea his son was serving until now.

But this young man did serve his nation -- but his death is so incredibly tragic, like the others -- but his even more because his well-respected father has been working hard to end this horrible, self-damaging crusade. It's incredibly sad.

To answer my own question above. Andrew Bacevich's son's life was precious -- and his life and his untimely death matter greatly for just waking up and realizing we are achieving nothing in Iraq today and that responsibility must be borne by the perpetrators of this mess.

Dan Riehl calls Steve's post "anti-war propaganda." Barbara O'Brien calls refrains from calling Riehl "the worthless scumbag rightie blogger," although she wants to:

... Referring to “Andrew Bacevich’s son’s life was precious” the rightie wrote, “So precious, apparently, Clemmons simply couldn’t wait to dash that off, I guess. What a disgrace.”

Disgrace, yes, but the disgrace is not Clemmons’s. Riehl is one of the Bush Bitter Enders who maintains the fiction that to criticize the war is denouncing the troops. But it is no disgrace to be honest, and to say frankly that when our children die in Iraq their lives were wasted. The disgrace would be to hold our tongues and acquiesce to the obscene fiction that killed them. The disgrace is to be one of the brain-dead lackeys who supports Bush’s war.

The Boston Globe's Brian MacQuarrie writes about the larger impact of Andy Bacevich's death in Boston, especially among professors and students who know about Prof. Bacevich's opposition to the Iraq war, but in many if not most cases did not know that the professor's son was serving in Iraq:

BU professor William Keylor, who also teaches history and international relations, supervised final exams for one of Bacevich's classes yesterday. He said faculty members were "devastated."

"They knew how close the two Andys had been and, particularly those of us who have children, just identified so strongly with him," Keylor said.

The students taking that final exam, Keylor said, were not told of their professor's loss so as not to distract them from other finals. The course, called The American Military Experience, included discussion of the relationship between citizenship and the obligation of military service, according to BU's website.

Professor Bacevich maintained contact with his son by e-mail, Keylor said. "Every time, the word was things are going well, no problems. Then I got a call from him last night with this terrible news," Keylor added.

"He resembled his father so closely that, when you saw him, you immediately thought of Andy Sr.," Keylor said. "His father and mother absolutely adored him."

Keylor described the younger Bacevich, whom he had taught in a two-semester class on international relations, as a good student who wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. "I had the impression of a very popular, likable, exuberant young man," he said. The younger Bacevich had been enrolled in the Army ROTC at BU.

When interviewed by the Globe recently, Professor Bacevich had requested that his son's service in Iraq not be mentioned -- both to limit unwanted attention on his son and to separate the father's professional opinion from the heavy personal stakes.

Behind that request, however, "I always had the impression that he was terribly proud of his son and the service he was providing," Keylor said.

Via James Joyner, Juan Cole reminds us of the grim bottom line:

The fabled Tigris of the Fertile Crescent, said by some to have watered the Garden of Eden, has become the Styx, a river of death and corpses, with Bush and Cheney playing Charon. Some of the 14,000 Iraqis who disappear without a trace no doubt make the journey, not to the other side, but straight to the bottom.

Bacevich, no less than Walt Whitman, is our courage-teacher, reminding us of a lost America of vitality and backbone:

[Allen Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California,":

"Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?"

If Iraq is menaced by the river of death, America is threatened by the river of oblivion. How many Americans feel the reality of the carnage in Iraq, the sorrow of Lt. Bacevich's being taken from his parents? As Ginsberg saw, it is the opulent supermarket that preoccupies us, not the epic vision of a Whitman. The oblivion is being helped along by an Iraqi Interior Ministry that is reportedly forbidding photo journalists to take pictures of the aftermath of bombings, and by a US military that seems intent on severing public access to the online blogs of soldiers. ...

Prof. Cole continues on to others news from Iraq, including the three-missing-U.S.-soldiers story [emphasis mine]:

The Islamic State of Iraq, a Salafi Jihadi organization mainly made up of Iraqi Sunni religious nationalists, said they had captured the 3 missing US soldiers and that the current US sweep in the Mahmudiya area would endanger their lives.

Some 52 Iraqis were killed in political violence or found dead in Iraq on Monday, mostly in Baghdad itself. Reuters gives details. 17 bodies were found in Baghdad and 5 in Mosul. Those were the ones that hadn't been thrown into the Tigris. McClatchy reports the violence in the provinces, including Salahuddin and Basra.

The deployment of 4,000 US troops to search for 3 captured GIs, however honorable and necessary, underscores the increasing futility of the US military presence in Iraq. If they were truly doing essential counter-insurgency, then there shouldn't be a spare 4,000 troops for a search mission. The guerrillas are not resting on their mortar shells, after all. And, that the main mission of the 4,000 should be to find their captured colleagues is tragic. The guerrillas can tie down an entire brigade or two any time they like by grabbing some exposed GIs? What kind of a military mission does that imply? As for the idea apparently prevalent among some US military personnel that the good people of the Triangle of Death will like the Americans more if only they see them searching through their underthings in their dresser drawers looking for bomb parts, surely you jest.

A noble cause, indeed.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.


Vox Populi said...

Thank you for this wide-ranging article on Andy Bacevich. I wanted to blog it but when I found this it said a lot and I wanted people to read it. I returned to read it in full and then realized how many times I have come to your blog and then was further surprised to find that you are at shakesville. A place I apparently don't freqeunt ENOUGH. That will change. Thank you for this heart-pouring on Andy Bacevich. A damned shame and yes, a waste of a life.

Kathy said...

What a lovely comment, vox. Thank you .

Jim Martin said...

In case my opinion has not been established, I do have a highly defined bias against this Bushian Crusade.
I don't wish misery and loss upon anyone, but I can't help but feel that those people that got us into this mess have sacrificed nothing.
I also believe that they have probably profited enormously upon the hardship and sacrifice of others.
I don't feel that any of these brave people died for my freedom, but were sacrificed for the glory and legacy of others.
We have forever been deprived of their gifts and talent and the world is a lesser place.