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Congress Goes On Vacation While More 'Honored Dead' Come Home

Joseph L. Galloway

This week it's Congress' turn in the bulls-eye _ all of the elected worms on both sides of the aisles. Especially the new Democratic majority, which arrived last January with the mistaken idea that their long ordeal of wandering, Moses-like, in the desert was at an end.

The late Will Rogers was fond of remarking that the Republic was never in greater danger than when the United States Senate was in session. Thankfully, the senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives are on vacation this week.

It is to be fondly hoped that those who aren't out inspecting the food and wine in Paris and the carpets in various exotic bazaars in earnest pursuit of "facts" are now back home getting an earful from the unfortunate citizens they were elected to represent.

The mandate that emerged from the mid-term elections last November was not one for Democratic control. It was a thundering vote in favor of reform, or rebellion, if you will. The voters understood that this august body the founding fathers envisioned as one-third of a system of checks and balances was utterly broken, utterly corrupt.

And what's come of it? What have they wrought? Nothing much. They've reformed nothing, fixed nothing.

The dust from all those victory laps by the grandmotherly Nancy Pelosi of California and the cadaverous Harry Reid of Nevada is still in the air, and to date they and their majority have done nothing of what was demanded of them. They've been flim-flammed by Mortimer Snerd and Charlie McCarthy into passing a bill that funds the continuation of a war that 70 percent of Americans no longer support.

For all their posturing and demands for withdrawal timelines and benchmarks for an Iraqi government that's only marginally less functional than our own, in the end they caved and gave George W. Bush exactly what he wanted _ another $100 billion or so to carry on the killing and dying and suffering.

On Memorial Day, when politicians of all stripes turned up at military cemeteries to bask in the glory reflected off the white marble tombstones of men and women who died for their mistakes, 10 more American soldiers and Marines were killed in Iraq.


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One could almost hear the whispering voices of the honored dead, passing the word: Move over. Make some more room. There's one stark image that lingers in my mind from Memorial Day 2007. It's that photograph of the young fiancee of a slain Army Ranger sergeant stretched facedown and full length on the cold earth of his grave at Arlington National Cemetery. She was embracing with love all that she and we have lost.

Did you weep for her, America? Did you weep for him? Did you feel or even notice the pain and suffering that radiated from that image? Did it speak to your heart of the events _ the grotesque mistakes of a president and his underlings and the utter failures of a Congress and both political parties _ that brought the sergeant and his fiancee to that place?

As I write, there's still time, a few hours left of May, 2007, for this month to move, temporarily at least, into the record book as the cruelest month for Americans in Iraq in four-plus years. June and July and August don't promise much relief. While the president turns his back on reality, his failed war and his failed presidency, and as Congress postures and preens, those who daily risk life and limb in Iraq soldier on. They're the best of us, and the best of their generation, and the politicians blather and dither and pontificate while their blood is shed.

How dare they? How dare they go on vacation in the middle of a misbegotten war? Death in Iraq takes no vacation. The patrols go out 24/7. The medical evacuation helicopters deliver their ghastly cargoes of dead, dying and maimed to field hospitals. The suicide bombers cut down innocent Iraqis as they shop or walk to school. The death squads come in broad daylight and drag away more innocents to the slaughter for their different belief in a same God.

And what do we do? We go on with our lives as if none of this was happening. We sacrifice nothing more than a few of the precious rights that a million Americans bought with their lives in other wars.

We trade away our rights to the privacy of our communications and our personal business. We blink, and under the guise of something the politicians had the gall to call the Patriot Act, we hand over to one deeply flawed man the sole power to declare us outside the protection of both law and the Constitution. He can waive our right of habeas corpus and our right to face our accusers in a court of law.

On a day when a young woman embraced a cold grave with pure love, our elected representatives vacationed while the senseless and unnecessary war that took her fiance raged on. Most Americans didn't even notice what they'd lost as they shopped and partied and, yes, fiddled while a great dream born 231 years ago in the minds and of the blood of true patriots was being stolen by men and women unfit and unwilling to protect the precious gift our forebears gave us.

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young."

© 2007 McClatchy Newspapers

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