Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Andrew J. Bacevich

[posted by Callimachus]

Andrew J. Bacevich, military historian and critic of the Bush Administration's war policies, has lost his son and namesake in Iraq.

Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich has been a persistent, vocal critic of the Iraq war, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure. This week, the retired Army lieutenant colonel received the grim news that his son had been killed on patrol there.

First Lieutenant Andrew J. Bacevich , 27, of Walpole, died Sunday in Balad of wounds he suffered after a bomb explosion, the military said yesterday. The soldier, who graduated from BU in 2003 with a degree in communications, is the 56th service member from Massachusetts to be killed in Iraq.

His father, a veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, has criticized the war in his writings and described President Bush's endorsement of such "preventive wars" as "immoral, illicit, and imprudent."

... Katy Bacevich, 22, one of the soldier's three sisters, recalled her brother as a born leader who answered a calling to serve his country. Andrew Bacevich joined the Army in July 2004 and had been stationed in Iraq since October with the Third Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division.

"He felt it was an important thing to do, regardless of the war that was going on," she said. Despite her father's strong feelings about the conflict, Katy Bacevich said, "he never would discourage my brother from doing what he wanted to do."

This is an important angle to the story, certainly. But I could wish for an article in which the son's life and personality was given more prominence than the father's. Just because it's that young man's last chance to get his story told. Does the fact that he was the 56th casualty from Massachusetts really matter more, inverted-pyramid style, than the narrative of his service or his reasons for being there?

Quibbles with journalism. The fact is, another brave and true-hearted young man is gone and we all rightly mourn. "How sleep the brave, who sink to rest by all their country's wishes bless'd."

Jules Crittenden gave himself the unlucky assignment that often was mine in my days as a cop reporter: Call the dead man's family and try to get a comment. He writes about it here:

I haven’t had to make that kind of call much since I became an editor, but tonight when it needed to be done, I preferred to be the one to do it. Andy Bacevich answered the phone but was brusque, just said he couldn’t talk about it right now. Later, he sent me an email. “He joined the Army to serve his country in time of need. We love him and mourn his loss.” And a photo of his beloved son, who looks exactly like him, smiling, with bright eyes, at Patrol Base Love, Iraq.

Anti-war father loses his beloved son to the war he opposed. The family's tragedy wrapped into deeper tragedy. It reminds me of the Quaker boys I wrote about who snuck off and joined the Civil War and never came home, or Nick Berg, who went to do the right thing even though his father bitterly opposed it.

On the car in the driveway of the Berg home is a bumper sticker with a red slash through a "W" and the slogan, "Let's not elect him in 2004, either."

Yet this father, who is of the age of the '60s youth movement, taught his son to think and to make his own choices. And the son grew up to see a world that could be made better, even by Americans. Among those who sent the family condolences this week were Kenyan tribesmen young Berg had helped improve their village. He went to Iraq with the same vision: to bring democracy and a good life to people who knew little of either.

He supported the war, for humanitarian reasons. This, more than any accident of geography, is what makes me feel identified with him.

In the Vietnam War, the old held that American power was a force for good and believed in the spread of freedom as a patriotic virtue. Their children spit bile at the administration. In this war, the natural order is reversed. And the war itself, we can only hope, is fought with more wisdom, and more vision, than was Vietnam. I hope this for the sake of the growing list of men and women who have given their lives believing that it is so.

Steven C. Clemons has an elegy. "By all their country's wishes bless'd." Would that it were so. Stop here if you don't want to feel your blood boil. But within the space of two comments, the thread on Clemons post turned to this:

I feel terrible for any person who has lost a family member in this stupid war. And yet, why would anyone volunteer for this madness? Did they think it could not come to this terrible end?

Should I feel worse for someone whose son volunteered to be part of this conflict, to be part of the problem and the cause, more than than for some Iraqi who wonders why his son or daughter was killed by being at the wrong place and the wrong time in their own country?

I'm terribly terribly sorry to say that his son was part of the problem. Surely someone like Bacevich's son had other options in life. Why did he choose this one?

He chose to be part of America's military empire building, and he paid with his life. But it was still his choice.

I'm sorry if that sounds cold. But that's the reality of the situation.

When enough people start refusing this immoral madness, then maybe it will stop. Until then... more deaths like Andrew Bacevich, 27, Walpole MA, and the un-named Iraqis he probably helped kill.

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