They look like kids. The pictures of Pfc Thomas Tucker and Pfc Kristian Menchaca in the news reports show boyish, eager faces. Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Tucker, 25, of Madras, Oregon, were captured and murdered by Iraqi insurgents. (Al Qaeda's new leader in Iraq claims credit on the Internet--though it's not clear if the claims are true.) After a search by 8,000 troops near the village of Karagol, the military is reporting that the mutilated bodies were found in the street.
These latest deaths in Iraq give the lie to President Bush's claim that by fighting the insurgents in Iraq we avoid fighting them at home. The war is coming home, in the form of 2,500 American casualties.
Menchaca's devastated mother heard the reports of Al Qaeda's boasting about the terrible abuse of her son before the official military messengers arrived. Menchaca's grief-stricken uncle told NBC that the U.S. government didn't do enough to protect his nephew.
It is getting harder to hold these casualties at a distance. And it is getting harder to believe that this waste of young lives is somehow making America safer.
There was no Al Qaeda chapter in Iraq before the war. There is no clear plan to bring peace and security to the region--let alone to quell terrorism aimed at the United States by continuing to put American kids in harm's way in Iraq.
That's the dreadful thing about news of these latest deaths. In all honesty, you have to ask what cause they serve.
As the prosecutor in the trial of Saddam Hussein wrapped up his case, calling for the death penalty for Iraq's former dictator, the civil war that is engulfing that country continued to rage. Hussein and his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction--the most pressing justification for the U.S. war on Iraq--no longer pose any threat. And yet Americans are dying by the thousands, the violence is escalating, and terrorists are consolidating their foothold in the country. There seems to be no way out.
Democrats in the House and Senate are cautiously urging a pullout from Iraq--but without mentioning words like "timetable." One sponsor of the Democratic proposal in the Senate, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, was quick to declare, "This amendment is not cut and run." For while a majority of Americans want out of Iraq, the Democrats are sensitive to Republican charges that they lack courage, or, worse, that they disparage the sacrifice made by soldiers like Tucker and Menchaca.
But as long as politicians continue to insist that it would discredit the troops to get them out of this impossible situation, the more American kids will die on this muddled, futile mission.
The awful truth is that their continued presence there is not getting us any closer to an American victory in the war on terror. It's time to cut our losses and bring the troops home. Fighting the war on terror has to mean more than throwing away American lives, or it means nothing at all.
Ruth Conniff covers national politics for The Progressive and is a voice of The Progressive on many TV and radio programs.
© 2006 The Progressive