The death of 20-year-old Army Spec. Justin W. Herbert, on Aug. 1, 2003, marked the first Snohomish County son and brother killed in the Iraq war. He was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck and devastated his vehicle in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Since that time, three more soldiers and Marines from cities and towns in Snohomish County have fallen to an emboldened Iraqi insurgency as part of the total of more than 1,900 American GI's killed in the war. Thirty-nine of those were from different parts of Washington.
I distinctly recall the emotional responses of some East Texas families to their teenage children being killed in Vietnam before I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1971. I went to several of their funerals during my high-school years and couldn't understand, at those moments in time, why the grieving mothers and fathers couldn't grasp that their sons' deaths were for a noble cause.
I was then a cadet of a United States Air Force auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, which taught me over a seven-year period the military way of life, and prepared me for a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, the epitome of soldierly virtue.
The CAP also taught me to never question the policies of the commander in chief, the president. His word was sacrosanct and my primary duty as a warrior-to-be was to obey the orders of my superior officers.
Without question, I accepted the stereotypical military presumption that the war in Vietnam was justified and that the deaths of 35,000 GI's by early 1969 were morally justified by presidential policy.
It wasn't until I returned from Southeast Asia that I realized I was wrong about a lot of things. When the Pentagon Papers were released to a shocked public in 1971, I suddenly realized that the honor of being a U.S. Marine in Vietnam had been severely tainted by egregious lies and deceptions perpetrated by a presidential mandate to escalate unnecessary killing in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
American deaths in the Vietnam War affected every city, town and hamlet in the United States, so I suppose many of the older residents of Snohomish County can vividly remember losing sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives to that awful conflict.
Thirty years later, and after incontrovertible evidence has been brought forward, especially by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, to show that the 14-year Vietnam War was a debacle, a horrible Greek tragedy in four presidential acts, I am pretty sure tht quite a few widows and orphans still harbor stiff resentment against the U.S. government.
The recent statement by President George W. Bush, to the effect that Cindy Sheehan does not speak for the majority of families that have lost loved ones in Iraq, is considerably dubious and without proper foundation. To date, Bush has not met with a fifth of the families that have lost sons and daughters to the Iraqi insurgency. He hasn't even attended a single funeral of his slain warriors.
As Bush's credibility and job-approval rating have plummeted as a result of the publication of the fabrications and propaganda emanating from the collusion of the Bush and Tony Blair administrations, quite a few indirect victims have altered their views on the purpose and viability of the Iraq invasion, the ensuing war and the subsequent insurgency. Less than 30 percent of the American electorate now believes that the pre-emptive invasion was necessary and that the president and his cronies were truthful about the reasons for going to war.
So what does that say? If the invasion was not necessary, the deaths of nearly 1,900 American GI's weren't necessary. So, what does that make Bush — a war criminal? That will be properly decided by history. The most important thing right now is for the 109th Congress to force Bush to immediately withdraw all 138,000 American troops from Iraq so that not another soldier or Marine is killed.
I believe this would come as a blessed relief to those mothers, fathers and wives in Snohomish County presently dreading impending news of whether their loved ones have been slain.
Norton R. Nowlin is a paralegal and freelance writer residing in Mountlake Terrace. E-mail him at email@example.com.
© 2005 The Seattle Times