Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Prize Idiot of the Day

Jules Crittenden wins today's prize for the stupidest comment of the day. Writing about the Iraqi man who shielded four U.S. soldiers and eight Iraqi civilians from serious injury or death when he jumped between them and an approaching suicide bomber, Crittenden likens this individual citizen's heroic act of self-sacrifice to the sacrifice made by all American soldiers who have died in Iraq.

First, here is the story of the Iraqi who gave his life to save others:

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – An Iraqi man saved the lives of four U.S. Soldiers and eight civilians when he intercepted a suicide bomber during a Concerned Citizens meeting in the town of al-Arafia Aug. 18.

The incident occurred while Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, were talking with members of the al-Arafia Concerned Citizens, a volunteer community group, at a member’s house.

“I was about 12 feet away when the bomber came around the corner,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Kane, of Los Altos, Calif., acting platoon sergeant of Troop B, 3-1 Cav. “I was about to engage when he jumped in front of us and intercepted the bomber as he ran toward us. As he pushed him away, the bomb went off.”

The citizen’s actions saved the lives of four U.S. Soldiers and eight civilians.

Kane felt the loss personally because he had met and interacted with his rescuer many times before the incident.

“He was high-spirited and really believed what the group (Concerned Citizens) was doing,” Kane said. “I have no doubt the bomber was trying to kill American Soldiers. It was very calculated the way the bomber tried to do it. If he hadn’t intercepted him, there is no telling how bad it could have been.”

Kane believes the citizen is a hero.

“He could have run behind us or away from us, but he made the decision to sacrifice himself to protect everyone. Having talked with his father, I was told that even if he would have known the outcome before hand, he wouldn’t have acted differently.”

Here is what Crittenden wrote, after quoting the dead Iraqi's father, who said he didn't regret his son's death because he died to save lives:
And that is something a lot of people haven’t recognized about all these deaths of American soldiers in the last six years, and not a few Iraqis. A life given for others may be a cause for sadness, but it is not a tragedy. This is why, if you’ve attended a soldier’s funeral, you may walk away conflicted. Heartbroken and inspired.

It's outrageous to liken an individual's deliberate decision to intervene, directly, in a highly dangerous situation happening in the moment, knowing he very likely will be killed or suffer grievous harm, in order to save real, specific, individual lives; to the deaths of U.S. soldiers in general. Even IF one believes that the Bush administration's reasons for preemptively invading Iraq included a desire to save lives, there is no parallelism between an individual's choice to save other individual lives at the cost of his own, when he could easily make a different choice; and the deaths of more than 3,700 American men and women while waging war against a country that did not attack or pose any threat to the United States.

Is the act of choosing, when it actually is a choice, to put one's body between innocent bystanders and a suicide bomber intent on mass murder, comparable as an act of heroism to dying in a helicopter crash, or being killed when the Humvee you're driving is hit by an IED? Is an American signing up to go to Iraq the same as an Iraqi jumping between American soldiers and an oncoming suicide bomber? Even if the American enlistee believes the war is noble and that its purpose is to save lives, that is still purely theoretical unless and until he actually does save a life that would have been lost had he not been there to save it. There is a congruence between intention and result in the Iraqi civilian's act of self-sacrifice that does not exist, for the most part, in the deaths of American men and women in Iraq -- and certainly it does not exist in the war policy itself.

In truth, the "not a few Iraqis" Jules Crittenden tells us have died are hundreds of thousands, and far outnumber the deaths of "all these American soldiers" over the past six years.

That is not to say that individual U.S. soldiers do not act in ways that are heroic and courageous; or that the death of every American in Iraq is not grievously sad. In truth, the death of that Iraqi civilian, and all Iraqis who have died as a result of this war, and the deaths of over 3,700 Americans and the permanent maiming of tens of thousands more, are both sad and tragic -- sad, for the obvious reason that people lose their lives and parents lose their loved ones; tragic, because no matter what the immediate cause of death, the larger cause of death is always a war that the United States chose to wage, for venal reasons; not a war that was forced upon us and that we fight to survive or to ensure the survival of others.

In truth, the death of that Iraqi civilian at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq, should stand on its own and not be exploited as an opportunity for cheap America-first cheerleading.

No comments: