Read Andrew J. Bacevich’s reflective WAPO OPED on losing his son in Iraq earlier this month. Haunting is his question:
What exactly is a father’s duty when his son is sent into harm’s way?
Bacevich, a military historian who also served in Vietnam, teaches History and International Relations at Boston University. A persistent critic of the Iraq war and of the post-Cold war American foreign policy (and its reliance on militarism) in general, Bacevich has been a thoughtful and reflective voice asking important questions both in scholarly and public forums. See his book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. Today’s OPED is in part a response to hatemongers, who in fact blamed Bacevich himself for his son’s death, arguing that his stridently anti-war writings emboldened the enemy. I wonder where they got that idea!
It seems to me that Bacevich is asking his question as a father but his response is as a citizen and a scholar.
Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others — teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks — to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.
This, I can now see, was an illusion.
The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed.
Trying to make sense of his son’s actions and death, Bacevich concludes:
I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while was he was giving all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.
In these days of intense patriotism, dissent has minimal space and strangely anti-war activists have not embraced civil disobedience as a moral and political option. I just began reading David Shulman’s latest book Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine, which raises similar questions in the context of Israel. More on that soon.
PS: Also read this earlier OPED (JULY 2006) in WAPO when Bacevich asked: What’s an Iraqi Life Worth?