On Tuesday, seven Marines, six of them members of a sniper team, and all from Ohio, died in Iraq. The six snipers were ambushed outside a town called Haditha. The next day, 14 more Marines, also Ohio-based, died when the amphibious vehicle in which they were riding was destroyed by an improvised explosive device, not far from where the snipers died the day before. All were members of the Ohio-based 3d battalion, 25th Marines.
Their deaths pushed the official total of men and women who have lost their lives in a war to which they should never have been sent to more than 1,800. That figure, horrible as it is, may be as bogus as the reasons given by Cheney and Bush for starting the war, given reports that it does not include wounded who died en route from Iraq to hospitals in Germany or after they arrive there.
We know the administration has lied about the number of wounded, in that they do not include in that number men and women who have suffered combat-related mental breakdowns that required evacuation. Even so, the number of wounded is probably more than10 times the KIA figure.
Also on Tuesday, another Ohio Marine became a casualty, but this Marine's story may come to have a happy ending. Paul Hackett, a Marine reserve major recently returned from service in Iraq, lost his bid to fill the unexpired term of Republican Rep. Rob Portman who resigned to become U.S. trade representative. Hackett, a Democrat, lost to Jean Schmidt, a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
Hackett, a newcomer to politics, figured to be steamrollered, because Ohio's 2nd Congressional District is about as Republican a district as there is to be found, in Ohio or anywhere else. But he came close to winning, losing by a 52-48 margin.
Democrats in Ohio and nationally are hailing Hackett's near thing as a victory, which is a bit of stretch, given that it will be Schmidt, a down-the-line Cheney/Bush devotee, going to Congress and not their man.
Even so, Hackett's near upset may be a portent. In a pre-election television interview, Schmidt dismissed Hackett, telling a reporter in effect that all her opponent had going for him was Iraq. Which was almost enough. In an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman the day after the election, Hackett told about Marines from Ohio and across the country, men who had served in Iraq and had experienced the results of that mismanaged venture, who came to campaign for him.
To his credit, Hackett refused to let Goodman put words in his mouth. He declined her invitation to call the war unjust and he also declined to call for an immediate pullout. He called the war mismanaged from the start, but argued that we cannot, in good conscience simply walk away from the mess we've made of that country.
At the same time, he spoke of Marines and soldiers still in Iraq as "young Democrats in the making." If he's right about that, then Bush and Cheney and the rest of those neocon liars who raved about weapons of mass destruction and a "cakewalk" invasion are going to find themselves in trouble if and when those young fighters come home.
Hackett also said he is ready to return to Iraq if called upon, which appeared to confound Goodman. She apparently doesn't understand Marines.
As for Schmidt, she is fortunate that the election was held the day before rather than the day after those 14 Ohio Marines died in Iraq.
But how many more of those brave men and women need to die before an indifferent public wakes up and demands a workable end to what's happening there, and not just empty slogans coming from an empty head.
Rossie is associate editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
© 2005 Press & Sun-Bulletin