Thursday, October 29, 2009

Honoring Our War Dead


A scene we haven't witnessed for the last eight years: the Commander In Chief paying his respects as the bodies of American soldiers killed in war return home:

It was the president’s first trip to the Delaware air base, the main point of entry for the nation’s war dead to return home. The trip was a symbolic one for Mr. Obama — intended to convey the gravity of his decision as he moves closer to announcing whether he will send more troops to Afghanistan.

The overnight trip was not announced in advance. The president, wearing a dark suit and long overcoat, left the White House at 11:44 p.m. A small contingent of reporters and photographers accompanied Mr. Obama to Dover, where he arrived at 12:34 a.m. aboard Marine One. He returned to the South Lawn of the White House at 4:45 a.m. [...]

As the Commander-in-chief stood on the darkened tarmac and saluted, the flag-draped case was unloaded from the cargo plane in what the military calls a “dignified transfer,” as six soldiers in white gloves and camouflage fatigues carried the remains in precision. Mr. Obama and uniformed officers stood at attention as the case was placed in a white mortuary van parked nearby.

The transfer of the bodies — a solemn, 15-minute proceeding — took place after Mr. Obama spent nearly two hours meeting privately with several family members in the chapel of the Air Force base.
Obama's shrill critics will predictably scream "photo op!", and to them I say it maybe a good idea to pause the histrionics and note that this was all conducted at dawn, with very little advanced notice to the media which was allowed to capture only the last 15 minutes of an event that lasted more than two hours.

Besides, we need to be reminded of the consequences of a war that has dragged on for so long. As Obama comes closer to a decision on Afghanistan, it's important for him and for us to be reminded often that there is a real human toll behind troop surges and military occupation.

I'm glad he's thinking carefully and deliberately about his next step, in stark contrast to Bush/Cheney whose decisions were a foregone conclusion (i.e. more war). As George Will said, "[a] bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction... We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action."

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posted at 12:00:00 PM by Wonky Muse

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