The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bob Kerr: Paying the price for the man at the top

[Note: Paul Teverow sent this to me. It was published in the Providence (RI) Journal]

Bob Kerr: Paying the price for the man at the top
01:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 5, 2005

All that training. All that hard, snarling removal of your soft civilian ways. All those predawn runs followed by long days of pushing and pushing and coming so close to collapse that you aren't really sure how you make it to the blessed refuge of your rack at night.

Sometimes, you're too tired to be scared. You just keep moving because there is nothing worse than doing what your body tells you and dropping to the ground.

You come out of Parris Island or San Diego or Quantico in the best shape of your life. You feel stripped down to the essentials. You've taken the leap, left the easy comforts and learned surprising things about yourself.

Then you look all the way up the chain of command, all the way to the commander in chief. And he seems, at a very brief first glance, to be the right man to be there. He is trim and fit and you hear how he runs and bikes and lifts weights to a degree that makes you wonder how he has time to make all those important decisions.
And he has that shoulder-swinging strut when he walks. It seems just the thing for reviewing the troops.

He's the man who will decide how you get to use all the hard-earned lessons of boot camp. Sure, day to day it will be a noncommissioned or commissioned officer who issues the orders.
But in the end, it will be a civilian who is not one of you. He passed up his generation's war in the National Guard.

And he has taken all you have learned, all the storied history of the Marine Corps, and put it in a place where the Marines can't be the Marines. In his rush to have a war all his own, he has failed to cover the basics -- to understand the enemy before sending in the troops.

And 14 Marines were killed Tuesday when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb in Iraq. They never got to face the enemy. They were targets.

There's no way to be angry enough. I read the headlines on page one on consecutive days -- 7 Marines killed; 14 Marines killed. And what makes it worse is how little it will register, how slight a ripple it will cause outside the place where the dead Marines are from in Ohio.

All that training. All that rich tradition that seems to follow recruits over the obstacle course and down the road and onto the rifle range. It's all been wrapped up and fed into a meat grinder that grows more obscenely misguided by the day.

There's just no way to know. A young man or woman sees those dress blues and thinks about what it could mean to be a Marine, how it could lift him or her out of a life too predictable and ordinary.

So the agreement is signed and that first dark morning in the company of a frightening person in a Smokey-Bear hat signals the beginning of a very different life.

And all they and their families can hope for is that their sacrifice won't be wasted and won't be betrayed.

But it has been.

The Marines in Iraq have held up their end of the deal. They always do. But they have had the misfortune to wear the uniform at a time when the man at the top hasn't a clue. He has sent them to war for phony reasons and now he can't even decide what exactly to call this mess he has started and can't stop.

And when the bodies come home, he does not attend the funerals. As a famous American writer points out, he does not know how to mourn.

This week, the commander in chief started a five-week vacation in Texas. It will be one of the longest vacations a person in his position has ever taken.

Bob Kerr can be reached by e-mail at bkerr [at]


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