“Babylon has become a dwelling for demons…a haunt for every unclean and despicable beast.”
– Revelations 18: 2-3
I’ve known Johnny for about 10 years. He wasn’t a bad kid, just a little wild. Tantrums now and again but a stint at Parris Island has transformed him. The new portrait in his parents’ den isn’t a photo from 5 years ago of a typically whiny 15-year-old interrupting his father at work demanding to be driven to his job at a fast food joint. It’s the portrait of a 20 year-old lean, hard fighting machine – a US Marine.
I have to admit that during Iraq ’91 I was more fascinated with CNN than the war. Bernard Kalb on the roof the Baghdad Hilton was the story. That war was over before it started. There wasn’t a power on earth that could have challenged the assembled coalition. That one that dared foolishly believed that the arsenal aligned against it would fail in their Babylonian wasteland. That we watched the media celebrated Iraqi Storm Troopers fall to their knees and kiss Marine hands on live TV was a revolution in war time coverage.
Iraq ’03 is vastly different. The attack on Iraq is not by an assembly of lethal partners. It looks like it will come down to the US and Great Britain with some token support from bribed pseudo allies. This war’s objective is dangerously different. We’re not going into the deserts of Iraq to stop a thief from stealing oil. We’re going in to kill the thief and there’s no hope of his peaceful surrender.
Johnny sits right in the middle of it. Somewhere tonight he is near Iraq. Waiting and wondering. His Marine assault unit is likely to be one of the first over the Iraqi border headed for Baghdad.
For me Johnny gives this war a face, a name, a family. Like 200,000 other Johnnys and Janes now in the godforsaken middle east he could be in the first wave of Americans pushed between our technology and Iraq’s insanity. According to the Bush high command every despicable beast of modern warfare — the gasses, toxins and bacteria, are under Iraqi command.
That leaves these kids at incredible risk if Bush II performs with the political pragmatism of Bush I.
Bush I had the chance to destroy Hussein and his devils but stopped short pressed by political concerns reaching out to the ’92 elections. That same risk exists today with a slightly different twist. That Bush II, in its failure to convince the American people and Western Europe that this war is necessary, will hold back. That it won’t use all of its considerable technological firepower to pulverize Iraq before sending the ‘ground grunts’ in to finish the job.
Because pulverization is really ugly TV. Ugly TV is the chief cause of political paralysis. If the same paralysis over the destruction of Iraq stops the president as it did his father a lot of American boys and girls are going to die.
The last time politicians played god in a vaguely defined war it took more than a decade to break 54,000 American mothers’ hearts in the swamps of South Vietnam. When Kennedy began that trek in ’62 we were going to quickly stabilize a democratic government, free the people and come marching home. Today we call it nation building. The difference now is that the enemy has the power to get 54,000 posthumous medals awarded in a matter of minutes.
Johnny’s mother is asking for prayers for her son’s safe return. There’s little doubt that 300,000 other American mothers are on bended knee asking the Almighty for the same grace for their sons and daughters. To carry that weight of all those mothers’ prayers on his shoulders is a staggering responsibility for Bush. He wants this war and gets the torture of the soul that goes with a wartime presidency. Those that have faced it never forgot it. As it is his war in its strategy he has one obligation. That he will not hesitate to use all of our firepower, without reservation, to destroy the enemy early. If he does that someday soon hopefully all of the Johnnys will come marching home in one piece. Should he even contemplate otherwise then he should answer all of those mothers’ prayers now and bring our troops home without firing a shot.
Until whatever outcome may the one God who made us all deliver these children-turned-warriors from the beasts in Babylon.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.