Nov. 1 was the third anniversary of our son Ben's death in Iraq. The sense of grief grows with each passing year because, as the war continues, the reluctance of our nation to honestly confront the moral issues it raises inhibits the healing process of our family. Our loss of Ben is intensified by the additional sadness we feel when so many around us remain silent in the face of the senseless destruction dealt to so many American and Iraqi families.
Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, U.S. Army, was one of the early ones to die in Baghdad as the result of head injuries received from a roadside bomb. He was one of 82 killed during a month that produced the highest monthly total for 2003. Now, the month of October left us with more than 103 more Americans killed, the highest monthly total in 21 months.
How many more American and Iraqi families must bear anniversaries like ours? Well into the fourth year of this tragic misadventure, where is the outrage?
Even to call this war a "misadventure" avoids confronting the reality of our aggression. A war of aggression, as the Nuremberg Tribunal concluded after World War II, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
Many of our leaders -- political and religious -- who apologize for having supported this war and/or who condemn the way it has been waged fail to provide real moral leadership. There can be no morally correct way to occupy and murder a people. Moral leadership must take the form of actions that demand an end to this occupation now. Voices of church and political leadership must resound with indignation and calls to action. It is too late for whispers or measured sermons in the face of immoral acts for which we all bear responsibility.
To end this occupation we must bring the troops home now. More killing does not honor our son or the freedom we believe in.
In April 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King said, in his famous "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," "These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest."
Our convictions have led us to spend the past year engaging in actions to hold our senators accountable for refusing to act to end this war. One of us (Joe) has dedicated every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to stand vigil in front of the Seattle Federal Building until this war ends.
The first days of November will always bring us a special sense of grief that can never be made "right," though in the days that follow -- Election Day and Veterans Day -- we can all do the right thing and make the proper remembrances.
If you are a person of faith, please join us in asking God for forgiveness and in asking God to bless us with a deep sense of justice, love and humility. And please, everyone, "we must all protest."
Joe Colgan, an Army veteran, and his wife, Pat Colgan, live in Kent, Washington.
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