Yesterday, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq reached 4,000.
That's 4,000 lives cut short. 4,000 hearts that will never beat again. 4,000 families and groups of friends that will never be the same again. And for what? For a war that was sold based on lies that those who told them knew were lies. For preemptive war, the idea that you can get rid of a threat before it becomes a threat, the most dangerous theory of modern times. For vengeance, against people who had nothing to do with what we seek vengeance for.
But that's not what the president wants you to think about. He wants you to think of Iraq as the next great proving ground of Democracy; the next step in our nation's legacy, in the yet-unfinished Grand Experiment begun by our founding fathers in a hot, cramped room in early July, 1776. He wants you to think of the Iraqi people suffering under the rule of a ruthless dictator, who does not think twice about slaughtering them by the thousands; and he wants you to demand that we stay in Iraq, to ensure Democracy prevails there, fulfilling the responsibility we brought upon ourselves by toppling that dictator.
Everything else that the president says about the War in Iraq - that if we leave, the terrorists will follow us home; that Al Qaeda in Iraq is the physical manifestation of the greatest threat America has ever faced; that we should not be opposed to giving up certain liberties to purchase the safety supposedly bought by the war - is, quite frankly, thinly veiled bullshit. And the reason why he brings up the support of Democracy in reference to the Iraq War - because every other justification for the war he tried simply failed - leads me to the conclusion that the president doesn't personally believe his own words, and is only really promoting the war for his own personal benefit, which makes me sick to my stomach.
But that one single idea - that Iraq can become a part of America's legacy of Democracy, the place where the West faces off once and for all with this newest form of extremism - makes more and more sense to me every day.
If it is indeed true that Iraq is "our country's destiny" - as the president put it in his Memorial Day speech last year (which I vehemently attacked in this very blog) - then there is no doubt in my mind that we are going about it with the wrong mentality. We need to step back, and look past the immediate danger of Islamic terrorism, and into the soul of America. We need an Abraham Lincoln to tell us that the conflict we are in right now is just one part of a broader narrative - a narrative which we can, in some small way, shape. We need to resolve ourselves - not to "kill all the damn terrorists" and perpetuate the irrational ideas that brought us to Iraq in the first place - but to continue our pursuit of Liberty and Democracy, at home and throughout the world.
If we cannot bring ourselves to see that deeper conflict, and declare our intent to see that through, the war must end now. But if we can turn this tragedy into the next step of the Grand Experiment, perhaps the deaths of these 4,000 brave men and women can be worth something.