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Paul Shroeder, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq has written a powerful and touching tribute to his son. "A Life, Wasted" is also a challenge to the management and  rationale for continuuing the war in Iraq. It requires no further introduction. Please make sure it is read and circulated.

A Life, Wasted
Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed

By Paul E. Schroeder
Tuesday, January 3, 2006; A17 Washington Post

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

Originally posted to What were you thinking on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:44 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Recommend - The best writing against this war (none)
    that has been published. Clear - thoughtful and with  passion.


    "And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." Matthew Arnold

    by Cantinflas on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:46:27 AM PST

    •  Agreed - He's especially effective in pulling the (4.00)
      curtain away from the way Bush hides behind the unnecessary deaths of thousands to justify more wasted lives.

      "Bin Laden determined to strike in US"- Presidential Daily Briefing - August 6, 2001

      by What were you thinking on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:58:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think he is right that much of the opposition to (none)
      the war is still in the whispering stage as if people were afraid to hear their own voices.
      •  I think most people think we have no alternative (none)
        than to stay there until the situation improves although in their hearts they know the whole venture is bankrupt. I think we have to get out - we not contributing in anyway to improving their situation. When we decide to leave we will explore new alternatives for a better Iraq.

        "Bin Laden determined to strike in US"- Presidential Daily Briefing - August 6, 2001

        by What were you thinking on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 05:25:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Powerful - Recommend (4.00)
    Thanks for this post. I am so touched by his words. They speak to me about the insanity of this whole venture and the cost it is taking on our country and the people of Iraq.
  •  What a Great Essay! (4.00)
    This father has writen a fitting tribute to his son and all the sons, daughters, fathers and mothers that have died and will die in Iraq until we end this conflict. I found it enrgizing and I recommend.
    •  I felt the same way when I read it. He is able (none)
      to transform the uncomfortable pieties that said at these occasions into what they truly mean.

      "Bin Laden determined to strike in US"- Presidential Daily Briefing - August 6, 2001

      by What were you thinking on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:56:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  These are hard words to say: (4.00)
      "Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel."

      Many parents who lose their kids in Iraq may feel this way but can't articulate the tragedy of their situation.

  •  Very moving piece (4.00)
    The father's overall point is well taken: [paraphrasing]"it's all very well for people to reiterate that my son was a hero, but he already was to me - what I really want to hear is that his death achieved something worthwhile."

    And that is what he is not hearing.

  •  Everyone who is reading this... (4.00)
    PLEASE send out emails to get this on the recommend list.

    I read an article sent to me yesterday that once I get over the anger/sadness, hope to do a diary around...

    the subject?  How we are not ALLOWED to see the true face of this war.

    Good diary.  Thank you.

  •  how funny (none)
    muledriver posted this earlier and it was on the reco list for most of the night, but got knocked off.  

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    i was all bummed that his left the list, so i'm glad it's getting the exposure it deserves!

  •  The father will be further dissappointed in that (none)
    Bush does not "have to live with it [the deaths of soldiers and Marines]."

    Bush just doesn't think that way. The only time I'm aware of his visiting wounded troops was over these past holidays. He took that opportunity to compare a scratch on his forehead received while clearing brush on his fake ranch to the loss of limbs and other horrific injuries troops received on the battlefields of his making.

    And in his mind and by his statements, he compared well.

    No, Bush will never "have to live with" the consequences of his "bold, decisive actions".

    •  Reaching out to Bush is a waste of time for all of (none)
      us - he lacks depth, empathy and the basic curiosity that comes with personal insight. I believe he is now fighting mainly to be proven right. His party on the other hand is more practical and politically the Republicans are begining to hear the drumbeat that they may lose their jobs and that has them worried.


      "And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." Matthew Arnold

      by Cantinflas on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 05:38:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was touched with his earnest appraisal of the (4.00)
      situation in Iraq and how the equation meant his son had died for nothing. What a difficult realization. I wonder how many of us are not strong enough to acknowledge that possibility.

      He has more faith in Bush that I have!

      "Bin Laden determined to strike in US"- Presidential Daily Briefing - August 6, 2001

      by What were you thinking on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:01:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this... (4.00)
    I just finished reading this at WaPo and was debating whether it should be diaried or not.  Lo and behold, it was done already.

    Had a good cry while reading Schroeder's piece.  Powerful, very powerful.

    Another thing that I heard on BBC radio late last night was a small piece featuring a mother who has a son serving in Iraq, and who is very supportive of the war.  She went out to interview and talk to other parents - parents who have lost their children who were serving in Iraq.  Some clips of the interviews were played -and then at the end of the overall piece you here this mother's voice saying she came home after a day of interviewing other parents with a lot to think about.  There was a hesitation in her voice - like perhaps she was having some doubts about the war.

  •  Bush will have to live with it (none)
    But instead, he'll get on with his life.  He thinks it's important to do that, you know.

    But this piece isn't about cynicism.  It's about recognizing the losses we suffer, as a country, every day.  My heart goes out to the Schroeders and all the other military families who will feel their losses keenly every day for the rest of their lives.  It also goes out to those who come back battered and broken in unimaginable ways--physically, mentally, emotionally.

    •  We will never know the cost of this venture. (none)
      All the deaths,injuries(physical and mental) and families destroyed will not ever be tallied.The Iraqis will be ignored although their burden will tens of times greater than ours and the relative impact on their population will be perhaps even more horrific.

       


      "And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." Matthew Arnold

      by Cantinflas on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:27:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My favorite part (none)
    "But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world."

    Wars always bring bigger problems then they settle... It's up to us to have such a good democracy that other people want it too. -Woody Hayes 1986

    by Irrelevant Prolixity on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:33:23 AM PST

  •  How professional is our military? (4.00)
    "They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel."

    I think the time has come to drop this form of denial that the US military is professional.  Elements are, but in its entirety it is not.

    A professional military would have stopped this war before it was started without enough troops.  A professional army would have never covered up torture like this one.  A professional army would not continue to be broken in the field for pure futility, but this one does.

    A professional army would not enslave itself to one political party only, accepting and participating in any manner of felonies and lies to keep up the denial of reality.  Even as its own members were being killed and maimed for it.  But the US Army does.

    Scary stuff...yet, it seems to me, that the topic/idea is not discussed much.  Those alphas with guns, willing to do anything to preserve what they think is right...I dunno, but it seems to have shut up a lot of people. Perhaps.

  •  I definitely recommend (none)
    this dairy. How could you not recommend the heart felt words of a father who gave the ultimate sacrifice any parent fears?  It always makes me angry when Bush says to these families, "thank you for your sacrifice" as if Mr. Schroeder wanted to offer up his son for Bush's illegal war.

    Only when Bush offers his daughters to fight in his wasted war can he ever know the real meaning of sacrifice.  

    What part of the illegal conduct of this Administration to send our troops to fight an illegal war does the media not understand?

    by hws on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:42:07 AM PST

  •  Father and Son (none)
    by Cat Stevens, not really OT as originally written, but the lyrics certainly could apply to this war, and even to this father's lament:

    "All the times that I've cried
    Keeping all the things I knew inside
    It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
    If they were right, I'd agree
    But it's them they know, not me
    Now there's a way, and I know
    That I have to go away."
     

    Pray we don't get fooled again.

    by Rock n Roll Blogger on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:45:18 AM PST

  •  Other comments on Father's article below (none)

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:53:20 AM PST

  •  How many more- (none)
    This father painfully endures the hell that is every dead soldier's family's.  From the first day of the iraq war, my questions were primarily about politicization of war.  Clearly at every step where non-military leadership has created policy concerning Iraq, bent it to serve political ends, there has been disaster.   One can only imagine how deep and far this goes.
  •  My step sister was killed serving (4.00)
    in the first Gulf War.  At the time my family was horrified and saddened (we still are) but we thought there might actually have been some good done.  We no longer believe that.  

    When this second bogus war rolled around we knew from the start all the lies and fabrications about WMD's, oil and democracy would ultimately fail and the "we must fight on for our fallen heroes sakes!" would be pulled out.  It is such bullshit and it is such a total tragedy that Iraquis and others continue to die in vain.

    Sorry, fairly incoherent post, but man am I pissed......

    "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -Governor George W Bush (R-TX)

    by espresso on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:30:17 AM PST

    •  So, so true (none)
      I grieve for your family's loss. I have always been of the opinion that the first invasion of the Gulf region was an outrageous atrocity, so that we could advertise our prowess combining computer engineering with munitions. Yet everyone in America seemed to have concluded that the first Gulf War went "well." We are still paying for that catastrophe. We may never stop paying for it, from the looks of things now.

      I share your anger, though my family was not touched in such a direct and personal way. Thanks for your comment.

  •  Such Pain (none)
      All these hawkers how glad hand the war effort and now dream of a war with Iran, or Syria.

      If they received that fateful knock on the door, they would do a 180.

      My husbands Aunt & Uncle received such a knock on their door, their young son, a promising football player and scholar was killed in Viet Nam. The young mans father died of grief a year later.

      It is not worth the cost. There are other ways to resolve conflict.

    inspire change...don't back down

    by missliberties on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:37:58 AM PST

  •  You're right, absolutely essential (none)
    Good for the WaPo to print it.

    The saddest part is the conclusion. President Bush will never face up to the decisions he made. Sociopaths can't. It's like asking a 3 year old who has just toppled a tower of blocks to stop and consider his actions, in order to learn self-restraint. Can't be done.

    How ironic that the tragic harvest of this ghastly enterprise has yielded the finest exercises of speech this country has seen in a long time. I'm glad I overcame my resistance and read the whole thing. Every member of Congress should have it read to them each night before they lie down to bed. It's time to lie down upon the tracks and stop this madness. Half measures are no longer enough.

  •  If this gains any traction (4.00)
    I hope Mr Shroeder is ready for a vicious assault from Bush's Flying Monkey Brigade.

    If I worry about the future, will the future change?--Quai Chang Caine

    by Enjoy Every Sandwich on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 08:00:19 AM PST

  •  what a waste of a life (4.00)
    He's right - calling him a hero doesn't make it okay - it makes it worse. Wouldn't our country be stronger if all of these so-called heroes were still alive?

    I re-did my website! See how pretty DailyGranola.com is now.

    by OrangeClouds115 on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 08:57:11 AM PST

  •  Wow (none)
    Mr. Shroeder clearly understands how easily millions of people can be seduced by Saving Private Ryan Syndrome.

    The uncomfortable truth is that we're a country that is thrilled by the "romance" of war, yet most of the flag-waving/magnetic ribbon crowd has absolutely no concept of the price paid by these families. There is no closure. There is no moving on. And all the folded flags in the world won't patch the hole in his hearts of those who have lost a friend or family member.

    We, as a country, must grow up. We must start acting like adults. We must stop being blinded by flags, slogans, salutes and military bands. In the name of all that is good in the world, how many more Americans (and innocent Iraqis) have to die for George W. Bush's lie? Can we please put down the trumpets for a minute and start asking that question?

    I'll make President Bush a deal. If he's able to convince his two daughters to grab a weapon and stand a post in Falluja, then I'll support his war.

    I'm a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn -- Ron Burgundy

    by IndyScott on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 09:25:33 AM PST

  •  I have a son. (none)
    I wish I could share him with Mr. Schroeder for a while. I don't really mean "share" him though...I'm not even sure what I mean...maybe what I mean is that I wish I could somehow channel the being of my son in Mr. Schroeder's direction - or in the direction of the spirit world (if one exists) - so that his own son could be brought back to this life, at least for a while. Not that this makes any fucking sense, of course.

    Goddamn it!

    •  It's a wonderful impulse. . . (none)
      . . . and shows you have a generous heart.

      Don't worry if you can't articulate the impulse fully - there aren't words for some emotions.

      When only the government lacks virtue, there remains a resource in the people's virtue; but when the people itself is corrupted, liberty is already lost.

      by Robespierrette on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 11:03:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I mentioned in another diary (none)
    That I remember him, the face and the story of Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II. Someone had posted the pictures of those who passed from Ohio that day.

    The young and hopeful faces are always so haunting after they are gone. Shining eyes that will not open again, smiles that will not be seen again on this earth. In fact it makes looking at the faces of the new recruits who are still living haunting.

    The picture of "Augie" just captured me though. I'm sure anyone who saw it before will recognize it. The sparkling, mischievous eyes and grin. Looked like he was about to tease his little sister, filled with humor and life.

    I'm not saying he is more worthy then the others but that face alone has remained etched in my brain. He looks like a kid we would all like to have known.

    Here is the young man that father is missing. Oddly I feel like I miss him too.

    Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II

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