Major Eric Wolf of the United States Marine Corps is a logistics officer who has served a six-month tour in Iraq. He’s also my brother-in-law — my wife’s sister’s husband — and he and three of his four kids are staying with us at the moment. They’re moving from his Washington, DC, posting to Camp Pendleton in California, and they’ve decided to do it as a drive across the country in the family van. (His wife and one of his daughters chose to fly instead.)
Shortly after his arrival at our apartment, Eric dropped the news that he’s going back to Iraq almost immediately after he gets to Camp Pendleton. Last time he flitted around the country collecting information on how units were using their equipment in various contexts, but this time he’ll hopefully have a safer job. Still, I’m not happy to have yet another family member in a Middle Eastern war zone (my brother Effie is still in Safed, though he’s heading for Jerusalem tomorrow). This morning I awoke from dark dreams of a first visit to Israel that, instead of giving me the warm and relaxed feeling virtually all Jews get when they go there, was full of falling bombs and foreboding.
All day I’ve had John Kerry on the brain — not John Kerry the presidential candidate, but John Kerry the antiwar protester in 1971:
Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say they we have made a mistake … We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (Full Testimony | Video Excerpt)
Substitute “Iraq” for “Vietnam,” and these words could’ve been spoken by a soldier yesterday.
Of course, there’s an easy answer to Kerry’s questions: lie to the troops. According to a recent Zogby poll, “Nearly nine of every 10 [US troops surveyed in Iraq] — 85 percent — said the US mission is ‘to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks,’ while 77 percent said they believe the main or a major reason for the war was ‘to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.'” Even so, “an overwhelming majority of 72 percent of American troops in Iraq think the US should exit the country within the next year.”
This is the situation into which my brother-in-law is being tossed, this time with no particular mandate, but just to fill some boxes on a troop chart.