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An Honorable Marine Killed in a Dishonorable War
By Missy Comley Beattie
He is number 1,828, 1,829 or 1,830. We don't know for sure, because so many died last week.
Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Johnson Comley died when his vehicle was hit head-on by a suicide bomber. His death admits his family to a club no one wants to join: the grieving, questioning families who have heard the dreaded ring of the doorbell followed by a messenger's words, "We regretfully inform you that your son ..."
You realize that nothing you've thought, done or felt has prepared you for this reality. The feeling is so much worse than a broken heart. It is an evisceration.
As I write, Chase is being flown to Dover Air Force Base. His 6-foot-4 body is in a coffin draped with the U.S. flag. He loved his family, his country, his high school classmates and his life, but we don't think he loved his mission in Iraq.
When he was recruited, he told us he would be deployed to Japan. He called every week when he wasn't in the field to tell us he was counting the days until his return. He tried to sound upbeat, probably for our benefit, but his father could detect in Chase's voice more than a hint of futility and will never say, "My son died doing what he loved."
For those of you who still trust the Bush administration -- and your percentage diminishes every day -- let me tell you that my nephew Chase Johnson Comley did not die to preserve your freedoms. He was not presented flowers by grateful Iraqis, welcoming him as their liberator.
He died fighting a senseless war for oil and contracts, ensuring the increased wealth of President Bush and his administration's friends.
He died long after Bush, in his testosterone-charged, theatrical, soldier-for-a-day role, announced on an aircraft carrier beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner that major combat was over.
He died in a country erupting into civil war and turned into a hellhole by Bush, a place where democracy has no chance of prevailing, a country that will become a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
Have we won the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people? Apparently not.
Have we spent more than half a trillion dollars -- an amount that continues to rise -- in a war that King Abdullah advised Bush against because it would disrupt the Middle East? Apparently so.
Consider what the money spent on this could have done for health care, our children's education or a true humanitarian intervention in Sudan.
And then think about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he visits our troops. Picture his heavily armored vehicle, a machine impregnable to almost anything the insurgents toss in its path, while our troops are not provided sufficient armor to survive an improvised explosive device.
Think of the mismanagement of this entire war effort. Consider what we've lost. Too much. Think of what we've gained. Nothing.
And think of someone who says, "We will not cut and run," but who did just that years ago when he was called.
Think about a man who speaks about a culture of life when the words fit a wedge issue such as abortion or the right to die when medical effort has failed.
Then think about this war, Bush's not-so-intelligently designed culture of death.
Think, too, about naming a campaign "Shock and Awe" as if it's a movie and, therefore, unreal. And then think that this, perhaps, is one of the problems.
For many Americans, the war is an abstraction. But it is not an abstraction for the innocent Iraqis whose lives have been devastated by our smart bombs. And it certainly is not an abstraction for those of us who have heard the words that change lives forever.
So think of my family's grief -- grief that will never end. Think of all the families. Think of the wounded, the maimed, the psychologically scarred.
And then consider: The preservation of our freedom rests not on U.S. imperialism but on actively changing foreign policies that are conquest-oriented and that dehumanize our own young who become fodder for endless war as well as people in other countries who are so geographically distant that they become abstract.
The answer is not Bush's mantra: "They're jealous of our freedoms."
And, finally, think about flowers: The flowers for Chase Comley will be presented not by grateful Iraqis but by loved ones honoring him as he's lowered to his grave and buried in our hearts.
Missy Comley Beattie is the aunt of Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley of Lexington, Ky., who was killed in Iraq on Aug. 6.