Sending a son off to a war of regret
We stand by the back of the car, taking turns hugging and kissing him. He already knows we fear for his safety and don't want him to go. So I've steeled myself against sobbing, against saying what I'm thinking: "This could be the last time I ever see you." Instead, I inanely tell him to be careful.
I turn and see my husband's face. I can tell he's crying. With an aching eloquence, he says, "Come back to us, Theo."
"I will," our Marine says firmly, hefting his duffel bag. "I love you, Mom and Dad."
Then he's gone, disappearing into the revolving door of the airport terminal. Off to a flight that is the first leg of his journey to Iraq.
Looking for distraction once we're back at home, I pick up the paper. I read an editorial in The Oregonian that berates the members of Congress who refused to condemn MoveOn.org for its "General Betray Us" advertisement. I'm a MoveOn member myself, yet I, too, was unhappy with the name-calling of that ad. But our country's problem is the war, not provocative advertising. And as the mother of a Marine, betrayed is exactly how I feel. Not just by Gen. David Petraeus who, unable to enact his plausible theories of counterinsurgency at the beginning of the war where they belonged, is giving them a try now.
No, my feelings of betrayal began when the president committed our troops, eventually my son, to a war of choice. His advisers, seemingly oblivious to the complexities of the Middle East, betrayed me, betrayed us all, by telling him a war in Iraq made sense. But there are many more layers of betrayal: the congressmen and women, many of whom read only the condensed version of the president's case for war before voting to authorize it. Members of the media who took a pass on investigative journalism in the run-up to the war. The military leaders who didn't back up Gen. Erik Shinseki when he told Congress before the war that an invasion of Iraq would require many thousands more troops than what was being contemplated. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowing the looting of Baghdad and beyond. The military experts responsible for supplies who sent our troops insufficient amounts of body armor and too few safe vehicles.
And my fellow citizens, those who ignore the war? And those who oppose the war but don't complain to their elected representatives or bother to protest? The Republicans in Congress who support the continuation of the war? The Democrats in Congress who refuse to cut off funding for the war? Yes, all of them, too, leave me feeling betrayed.
I am well-acquainted with the pain and fear this war's betrayals can cause. But that pain and fear have never cut as deeply as they did this morning.
Come back to us, Theo. We are desperately hoping you will come back to us.
Susan Sutherland-Martin of Damascus is a member of Military Families Speak Out.