With the release of the names of the U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq -- and likely being held captive by Islamic militants -- the story has become even more tragic, and achingly personal.
Compounding the horror, the body of one of the soldiers killed in the ambush in which the soldiers were captured was so badly burned the Pentagon hasn't been able to identify him -- and so isn't sure which of the four soldiers listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown" is dead, and which of the four are in the hands of al-Qaeda. So we have four names, one body, three missing soldiers, and four families wracked with uncertainty and indescribable anguish. **[see update below]
Sgt. Anthony Schober, 23, of Reno, Nevada.
Spec. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Pfc. Joseph Anzack, Jr., 20, of Torrance, California.
Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan.
Their names and faces -- and the chilling ambiguity of their fate -- puts flesh and blood on what the political battle over the war taking place in Congress is really about.
It's not about partisanship or gamesmanship or presidential vetoes or who will have the upper hand in 2008. It's about how many more Anthony Schobers, Alex Jimenezes, Joe Anzacks, and Byron Foutys will we continue to ask to risk their lives on an unwinnable mission.
Speaking on the Senate floor this morning in support of his amendment to bring the war to an end, Sen. Russ Feingold said: "Mr. President, as we speak, more than 150,000 brave American troops are in the middle of a violent civil war in Iraq, with more troops on the way."
That's the harsh cold reality of the surge -- and of the president's pathological refusal to change course in Iraq. More and more and more young American soldiers -- more Schobers, Jimenezes, Anzacks, and Foutys -- caught in the crossfire of a bloody civil war without end in sight. The heartbreaking collateral damage of a centuries-old sectarian conflict. The hated occupiers in a country that no longer wants us there. Is anyone other than George Bush surprised that all the leafleting, and requests blared from trucks with loudspeakers, and air assaults, and rewards offered haven't led us to the soldiers?
Perhaps the plight of these missing soldiers will bring into focus the human toll this war is taking, and turn the public's distaste for it into a demand for immediate action.
Just as Jessica Lynch became the face of the invasion, perhaps these soldiers will become the faces of withdrawal. Let's find them, then bring them -- and the rest of the 150,000 -- home.
** Update as of 5/20, 11:40 am: The Pentagon has added the name of Sgt. Anthony Schober to the list of those soldiers killed in the deadly ambush. The whereabouts of Jimenez, Anzack, and Fouty remains unknown. The military says it believes that two of the three are still alive, but did not specify which of them they think may be dead. So the wrenching uncertainty continues. We are also learning more about the missing and slain soldiers, personal details that humanize their plight even more. According to their platoon leader, Schober "was a goofy guy, skinny, with the metabolism of a god"; Jimenez is married, has taught himself conversational Arabic, and has "an invaluable sense of humor"; and Foulty is "a bright kid" who was "given a lot of grief because he was the new guy."