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American dead worth the cost of war? By what math?

03/19/2008 10:36 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It used to be - until this recent age - that a leader of a nation would ride out to war with his men as both a symbol of that which his military was fighting for and also as a show of his own commitment to the cause for which he was sending others to die. Even Queen Elizabeth I rode out with her small army as the Spanish Armada approached, instead of capitulating to her advisers that she should retreat to safety.

In the recent age the closest we have come to the bravery of a leader willing to die along side his men has been through the military service of our leaders before they put on the mantle of power. Although not as honorable as going to war alongside your men and women, it was still a lesson in the selflessness of those who serve their country and the true ugly of war. A lesson for a man much needed for when  - as leader - he has the power to send many to their deaths on his say-so. 

Now we are led by cowards who have never served in war and who only visit the front lines by cover of night, safely insulated from threats by the  highest security and guarded by all sorts of humans and machinery so that no scratch can befall them. The leaders we have now do not now stand with their men and women at the horror of it all. Worse still, the men who have now become our leaders have never risked themselves or defended to the death any notion of democracy that they now so eagerly order others to die for.

It is bad enough that these charlatans are willing to declare war as easily as they declare what the entree will be for their three course dinner. It is bad enough that these dilettantes will hold up a moral cause that must be won as easily as they would use that very cause for a punchline during a political fund-raiser. It is bad enough that these sciolists will lecture those who are their superiors in such things as war while never ever having themselves seen the barrel of a gun. All of this and much more is bad enough, disgraceful enough, unpardonable enough, contemptible enough. But there is a whole new category of despicable that has yet to be defined when a pretender to honor, a coward boy-king will stand in his air-conditioned palace far away from the front-lines and opine that the lives lost for his war of choice were worth it.

"In speech excerpts released Tuesday by the White
House, the president will acknowledge Wednesday, the U.S. has paid a
"high cost in lives and treasure" and that there is a debate over
whether the war was worth fighting."

He goes on to explain that yes, this cost in lives and treasure was indeed worth it and that really, the cost was not all that high, merely exaggerated:

"But Mr. Bush will say the war has been a success,
especially since the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops
last year to quell sectarian violence. He says the surge has led to "a
major strategic victory" where Arabs are turning against the "grim
ideology" of Osama bin Laden.

The president says critics have exaggerated the war's costs because they can no longer argue the U.S. is losing the conflict."

Aside from the blatant lie in which Osama bin Laden is cast with any role in Iraq, what this morally vacant nightmare of a man is really saying is that the death of your loved ones - America - was worth it. The death of your loved ones - America - was a cost he was willing to pay for a lie he was willing to tell for a profit he was willing to make on behalf of his friends. Your sacrifice - America - was well worth it for him and his, even if not for  you and yours.

Here is a man who stands for nothing, believes in nothing, sacrifices nothing, and yet has the audacity to tell you that you must stand for everything, believe everything, and sacrifice everything for him - not for democracy, which he himself does not believe in - but for him. Is this tolerable to any decent person?

My dear friend often cites Robert Penn Warren's classic All the King's Men to me in our constant debate over humanity's ultimate goodness (or lack there of). In particular, he cites this well-known line:

"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

I am not cynic enough to believe this of humanity in general, but in the case of George W. Bush, it is a most apropos description. In Bush's case,  however, it is even more horrid when one considers that his passing from the "stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud" takes with him countless others, men women and children, whose value he so eagerly determined to be worth the cost.