When Young Mothers Die in Combat

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Americans die in foreign wars, we’re told never to forget those
singular losses by cable networks like Fox News and MSNBC.

take those grave admonitions at face value, and never forget exactly
why Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa died. Piestewa, one of the very few Hopi
women in the military, was the 23 year old mother of a 4-year-old
boy and a 3-year-old girl. The mother of two was with Pfc. Jessica
Lynch [who joined the military, according to her father, because
McDonald’s wasn’t hiring] when their unit was ambushed on March
23rd near Nasiriyah. The Pride of Palestine, WV, survived to see
her trials sanitized by cable television; Piestewa won’t be so lucky.

kind of nation have we become, to send mothers in the primes of
their lives to die like dogs on foreign battlefields? Piestewa hailed
from an indigenous people, yet her life was so blighted that she
had to sign up with the US military – in spite of having two children
– to avoid the vise of poverty that has crushed what’s left of
the Hopis and other tribal nations. She did what she could for her
kids every bit as much as that flag our conquering heroes covered
the face of Saddam Hussein’s statue with, but her kids will be left
orphaned, with only fleeting memories of the woman who brought them
into the world.

War on Terror (the omnibus name for the Bush policy of perpetual
war against foreign and domestic enemies) has given us a number
of journalistic casualties. There are some whose deaths receive
great play, like Daniel Pearl, Michael Kelly, and David Bloom. All
of these men were lionized in death, the honors they’d attained
during their lives only augmented by dying while performing journalistic
tasks for the elite media.

deaths are tragic to many who knew them, as well as fans of their
work. That much said, their deaths were ultimately voluntary. Pearl
chose to trust his source and descend into the bowels of Karachi.
Kelly and Bloom likewise chose to follow the war as and where it
went; they would’ve lost nothing if they hadn’t, but they did anyway,
to build a legacy.

Ann Piestewa likely didn’t carry an American gun to boost her legacy.
She served because food and electricity and gasoline are expensive
things, and because there aren’t enough jobs in reservations or
anywhere else but the armed forces anymore. She reckoned that she
could provide for her family by fighting enemies of the state. It
wasn’t for her to understand the merits of partitioning Iraq versus
maintaining its geographical integrity. Likewise, she probably had
no useful opinion on whether Chalabi will fill Hussein’s old shoes
as Our Man In Baghdad. Lori Ann was willing to kill for her country
as the surest means of providing for herself and her family. She
died half a world away from her babies, choking on desert sand.

elements in the American media advance the idea that any criticism
of US military operations is prima facie unpatriotic. But whose
money was, is, and will be expended for a war on Iraq, or for the
bombs that strafe Colombia to protect us from drugs? Whose sons,
brothers, cousins, sisters, and even mothers are fighting and dying
for cunning schemes sold with the most simplistic language?

never threatened Americans, but its corpse will provide ample feasting
opportunities for well-connected companies in the US and the UK,
already using the coalition military victory to muscle the companies
of France, Russia, and China out of their contracts with Hussein’s
regime. Will these nations see their national interest as threatened?
Unless their leaders are eunuchs, that is very likely.

will our erstwhile allies indicate their disapproval? Harsh words
in the media, of the sort that our pundits laugh at? Or by funding
resistance movements in Iraq and elsewhere, funding fresh bodies
to fight and kill Lori Ann Piestewa and others who only signed up
because there was no other option. God bless America – we certainly
need it.

24, 2003

Gancarski [send him
] has written for CounterPunch
and other publications; Utne Reader dubbed his internet work
“Best of the Web.”


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