• When Americans Die for Nothing

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    This month's burial of 20 U.S. Marines from a single Ohio reserve
    battalion is the result of Marines doing what they have done for
    200-plus years — fighting their country's battles. Dignified as
    always, Marine officers and men handled the news of the deaths and
    subsequent dealings with the bereaved families with a sincere, dry-eyed
    compassion that sets them far apart — and far above — the cloying
    festivals of televised grief on which our society thrives. In war,
    peace, and mourning, Marines are the epitome of the now much-denigrated
    but still cardinal virtue which the 19th Century called

    It is for the rest of us, rather, to ask for what did the 20
    Ohio Marines die? We have heard from the president that the Marines
    were killed because the enemy in Iraq is trying to break America's
    will. Others have said the Marines died because of terrorism committed
    by religious fanatics. Still others claim they died to bring freedom
    and democracy to a country long scared by a mad despot's tyranny.
    As a corollary to the latter, the president claims installing democracy
    in Iraq and across the Islamic world is necessary because the freedoms
    of Americans increasingly depend on ensuring others have the same

    Each of these reasons bulked large in the rhetoric of the politicians
    speaking at or about the funeral and memorial services for the 20
    Marines. Some spoke somberly, others pounded their chests and asserted
    the nobility of lives spent bringing freedom to others. And all
    of them lied.

    The 20 Marines died because America's bipartisan governing
    elite is intoxicated with the belief that they should, can, and
    must govern the world. When Americans push the voting machine's
    button for their candidate, the victor who emerges immediately forgets
    the voters' concerns and rushes to Washington to participate in
    the bipartisan crusade to rebuild the world in what the politicians
    see as America's image. Drunk on the headiness and self-flattering
    nature of this belief, the governing elite mindlessly pursues building
    overseas democracies as if it is their self-evident, Jeffersonian
    duty. Make no mistake, it was these politicians and their obsessive,
    ignorant-of-America crusade that helped kill the Ohio Marines and
    1,780 of their brethren.

    Until the last half-century, America's Marines, soldiers, sailors,
    and airmen were not used to pursue a war aim called "building
    democracies." Historically, U.S. leaders have understood the
    American way of war: Get there quick with the biggest stick, annihilate
    the enemy, his supporters, and infrastructure, and come home. In
    recent decades, and particularly under the Bush and Clinton administrations,
    however, our military has been used as armed social workers. From
    Somalia to Bosnia, from Haiti to East Timor, from Afghanistan to
    Iraq, our democracy-crazed politicians have used our servicemen
    and women as glorified policeman who are sent abroad to use minimal
    force — thus becoming targets and allowing enemies to survive —
    and to run schools, administer towns, build roads, provide potable
    water and improved health care, and to do a thousand other things
    irrelevant to their one valid mission: Remorselessly annihilating
    America's enemies.

    The 20 Ohio Marines and all the other military dead in Iraq
    died not only from enemy action, but also from the gleaming shivs
    that were knowingly and gleefully driven into their vitals by the
    hands of democracy crusaders named Bush, Clinton, McCain, Cheney,
    Gore, Pelosi, Biden, Albright, Kerry, Wolfowitz, Harmon, Tenet,
    Feith, Rumsfeld, Rice, hundreds of other politicians, and their
    acolytes in the press, electronic media, and think tanks. We might
    be in Iraq because we need to ensure oil supplies, protect the neocons’
    masters in Israel, or fight Islamic insurgents, but we have no need
    to be there to spread democracy. America's democracy does not now
    and never has depended on the democracy of any other country. The
    freedoms and liberties of Americans do not now and never have depended
    on forcing others to have the same freedoms and liberties. Indeed,
    if the democracy crusaders knew American history, they would know
    that 800 years of America's at-times-violent democratic evolution
    — if we date its start from Runnymede — cannot be replicated in
    short order, in foreign lands, and in alien cultures by men named
    Sistani and Karzai. Such a belief can only come from ignorance or
    a profound contempt for the centuries of sacrifice by Americans
    to reach the still less-than-perfect state of our democracy.

    the 20 Ohio Marines were buried with the quiet dignity and patriotism
    that characterizes the Marine Corps. Americans should commend their
    souls to God and turn with white-hot fury on their killers, those
    in Iraq and those miserable, self-righteous, and blithely murderous
    wretches from both parties who inhabit the executive and legislative
    branches of the federal government, who worship their idol Woodrow
    Wilson, America's most enduringly malignant contribution to world
    affairs, and who sent the brave Ohioans and nearly two thousand
    other Americans to their deaths – for nothing.

    18, 2005

    Scheuer [send him mail] is
    the author of Imperial
    Hubris and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes
    . He recently resigned
    after 22 years at the CIA.

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