I wanted to write a rant about the phrase “ultimate sacrifice” which seems to be the favorite response of the Iraq war apologists to Cindy Sheehan. I hate this phrase which tries to pretend that this war was in response to some great outcry from the American people rather than being the lovechild of Bush’s ego and geo-political machinations. What “we the people” wanted was for Bin Laden to be caught and punished but that didn’t appeal to Bush since that would have been a long slog with limited (election) results. No, Bush needed to be drenched in power, splashy news, and oil so instead we got Iraq.

And now that it’s clear that the Bush administration misfigured the cost, they hide behind platitudes about nobility and sacrifice so that they don’t have to acknowledge the slaughter of both Americans and Iraqis.

I don’t want to denigrate a single person’s death in Iraq but we don’t honor them by creating a pretty fairy tale about the nature of death in war.

But this has been said before and in more moving words than I could ever manage:

Dulce Et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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