The amazing Queen of Spain, Erin Kotckei Vest, wrote yesterday about her son's 5th birthday and the war in Iraq, realizing that our country has been at war for his entire life. It's a moving and troubling meditation on the length and malignancy of this war. Take a look.
It was strange to read -- someplace between echo and deja vu. My older son was born the night Cambodia fell; I went back to work at CBS News the night Saigon fell (foreign desk - overnight) and his younger brother was born 2 days after the Iran hostages were taken. We always knew how many days old he was because Walter Cronkite ended every newscast with "that's the way it is, the xyz day American hostages have been held in Iran."
I remember nursing Josh during the horrible last days of the Vietnam war, when they were trying to get orphans out of the country. One evening at the very beginning of the effort, 78 kids died when their plane crashed. To this day I remember sitting in a chair, feeding this weeks-old child, watching the broken bodies of some else's children flung around the crash site, and just dissolving.
I don't know if it helps or hurts that this is not the first time; although in so many ways it is the worst. As horrible as the country was during Vietnam, we had our collective rage. As this picture shows, we also had the innocence that placed carnations in the barrels of National Guard guns as they kept us at bay. And we had each other; the opposition to the war, while fractious and divided, essentially understood its unity and its shared issues. Because we'd had teach-ins and gone home and argued with our parents and had to face down counter-demonstrators at marches we had become somewhat tribal - which was bad in some ways but held us together.
The current administration, in my mind, has made it so much more painful to try to bring change; the worst part being that they should have learned enough from Vietnam not to do it this way!!! Not original but as I read Erin's heartfelt post, about her son and about all those in her family serving or having served in Iraq I got angry all over again. Last time it was arrogance on the part of people like Robert McNamara, but they did not have a Vietnam to look back on and strive to avoid. They had the model of World War II, the post-war failures that led to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe for so long, the Marshall Plan and all the other "good wars" and American generosity that informed the very bad decisions they made. These guys today have had all Vietnam to instruct them and still did this to us.
That's why this election is so important. If we had had decent leadership five years ago we might be funding decent learning disabilities programs and well-baby clinics and alternative energy research and, if necessary, wars we DO need to fight instead of burdened by a debt that could very well still be with us when Erin's birthday boy is in college.