Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not One Life More: While We Concoct an Honorable Exit Strategy, the Dying Continues in Iraq

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not One Life More: While We Concoct an Honorable Exit Strategy, the Dying Continues in Iraq

Article excerpt

I AM WATCHING A DOCUMENTARY ON THE 2004 PACIFICATION of Falluja, a town in Iraq, the cradle of civilization. It alleges that American Marines rained white phosphorous shells on this Sunni community, killing and wounding civilians. I am puzzled at how little the mainstream U.S. press has covered these charges. I ponder the odd cruelty of white phosphorous ordnance--virtually inextinguishable, it will burn to the bone of any man, woman, or child it falls upon--but I am stopped dead by the documentary's lead images.

It is historical footage of the famous "napalm girl" incident, the firebombing of then 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc and her family in the Vietnamese hamlet of Trang Bang in June 1972. It was the image of this little girl running naked, burned, and in agony that brought the horror, cruelty, and pointlessness of the Vietnamese conflict home to America's living rooms. But what I can't stop looking at is a few seconds of film just before Kim Phuc comes into camera view. It is her grandmother, lurching down the road, gasping, her eyes searching for help, pressing a 3-year-old boy against her bloodied chest, Kim Phuc's little cousin. His toddler's flesh is burnt black, falling away from his legs and his shoulders. He is dying or already dead when the television cameraman captures this terrible moment.

On the news American politicians are glowering and sniping as a growing chorus of Iraq pessimists cries out for some kind of exit strategy, five more U.S. soldiers are killed along with 100 civilians in another dreadful weekend of violence, and an Iraqi family is shot to pieces at a U.S. checkpoint in Baghdad. We have crossed some terrible threshold here, I think. We have crossed it before.

Between 1961 and '65 1,864 U.S. troops were killed in action in Vietnam. In 1966 5,008 were killed; in 1967, 9,378 more. A few voices were already calling for a U.S. withdrawal, but most dismissed such defeatist talk. American prestige was on the line; defeat or retreat were unthinkable. In 1968 14,594 U.S. troops were KIA. By then many Americans believed the war's objectives were not worth its terrible toll, but Nixon's "peace with honor" strategy meant that the U.S. would not fully extricate its troops until 1972. An additional 23,000 American soldiers would die and as many as 2 million more Vietnamese civilians would be killed as the U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.