Rethinking the war in Iraq - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Rethinking the war in Iraq

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Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2004 7:05 am | Updated: 5:19 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

His family stayed in seclusion after he died.

He had perished in Iraq, snapped off in the prime of life, and the last thing the family wanted was to talk to reporters.

Which is utterly their right.

Reporters may call when death strikes because sometimes the family does want to talk. Sometimes the family finds catharsis in letting strangers know how special the loved one was. But sometimes the pain is so profound they can’t bear to. This was such a time.

No rule prevents using his name today, but somehow it seems more proper not to. His name is not some cheap trinket for a columnist to ply. Suffice to say he was a neighbor of ours, an East Valley guy. A year ago today he was alive and now he is not, because of the war. If you can think of several who fit that description, well, that’s the point. It has been a cruel year since last we came to this weekend of remembrance.

There is at present a great debate over the war, growing daily in volume and in savagery. This is the most bitter moment in America since Vietnam.

Much of the debate is over why, exactly, the soldiers died.

There were reasons articulated at the outset of the war that did not hold up as the war went on, and other reasons were then articulated to take the place of the ones that had not held up.

The government has gone about this with a straight face, not unlike the propagandists in "1984" who rewrote history and then expected everyone not to notice.

In stating its initial reasons for the war, the government found willing allies in the press. The press, no less than the government, has a moral duty to speak truth when lives are on the line. But unlike the government, some of the press has since indulged in the luxury of a second look.

This is shown most forcefully in a remarkable self-examination recently printed in The New York Times. This was much more difficult than its probe of the lying Jayson Blair, and much more important. You can find it online at

www.nytimes.com/critique.

In examining its prewar coverage, the Times said, "We found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of."

"But," they said, "we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been." Often, the paper said, it was too willing to swallow misinformation from Iraqi exiles whose reasons for ousting Saddam Hussein may have been more mercenary than altruistic.

However belated, such self-examination is good. Society could use more of it if for no other reason than to avoid repeating mistakes.

Meanwhile, we keep putting young bodies in the ground, nearly 1,000 of them this past year.

How would we answer if they could rise again, and ask us why?

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