[the war in real terms]

Topic: Foreign Affairs
A couple of days ago, my brother-in-law (my wife’s sister’s husband) was deployed to Iraq. He’s a captain in the Marines, serving as a logistics officer at Camp Fallujah. He’s not a combat soldier, but already he’s come under fire twice: once when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his transport helicopter on the way to the camp, then once when the camp was shelled, as it is regularly. The shells are just pointed and fired, not aimed, so they fall pretty much at random throughout the camp. In the last month, these attacks have killed two soldiers.

This is the real deal. This is a member of my family who is risking his life just by being where he is.

My emotional response at this point is complicated and difficult to articulate. I’m worried, first of all. He has a wife and four kids who would be devastated if something happened to him, and I am trying hard not to imagine the emotional impact it would have on my wife, her other siblings, her parents. I have the selfish thought that I really, really, really don’t want to spend years of my life dealing with that emotional wreckage.

I’m also angry that the situation in Iraq is so bad. I feel that our leaders have seriously let us down, and now that feeling has become personal and immediate. His six-month stint will almost certainly be renewed, so we can’t count the days until he comes home. Nor do I think our leaders have done all they can to keep our soldiers safe, or to help them complete their missions so that they don’t have to be over there anymore.

And I’m afraid of what this experience could do to my brother-in-law, because I think we’ve stumbled into a dirty war. I have enormous confidence in him personally — he’s one of the most competent, upright, decent, moral people I’ve ever known, he’s extremely intelligent, he has an abiding religious faith, and he has a kind of personal calm and centeredness that would make him the first person I’d want standing by me in an emergency. But war is terrible, and being involved in a war can be damaging in so many ways.

I’m proud of him for being a soldier who is brave enough to risk everything in the service of our country. I just want him to get home safe.