The Brookpark Marines, the Truth About War, and a Message of Life

The dominant news story in my community during late August, 2005 was the funerals of young Marines killed in Iraq. A memorial service was held as the bodies were returned home to Brookpark, Ohio. Governor Bob Taft asserted that these young men "died for freedom."

Well, I do not believe the Iraq War served the cause of freedom. How could it? It was based on predictable lies that served political interests.

I further believe it made Americans less free and less safe. And it achieved little or nothing for the Iraqi people. Amnesty International gives a failing human rights report to the U.S.-created Iraqi government. And then there’s ISIS.

If my beliefs are accurate, then…

Sad to say, the Brookpark Marines did not die for freedom.

It’s very hard to write those words because when any of us loses a loved one under tragic circumstances, we seek meaning beyond the death – a sense of purpose that will blunt the blow of our loss.

This is a very human thing to do. I relate to it from personal experience.

Finding Meaning in Loss

My 37 year-old mother was killed by a juvenile drunk-driver when I was 10. Even then I searched for meaning. In the changed lives of others I found it.

And it also comforted me that the line of "mourners" extended down the aisle, out the door, and around the building of the funeral home. Wow, had my Mom really touched so many lives?

So I can appreciate the thousands who line procession routes, send condolence cards, and pay their respects to those who fought and died. It means a great deal to the families.

But we should be worried about sending the wrong message to our children – that dying for lying politicians is a worthy goal, a life well-lived. You see, politicians don’t really value these lives. For them, these noble dead are mere statistics in their grand schemes.

Committing Your Children to Die Costs Politicians Nothing

I feel compelled to speak out against those who would commit the sons and daughters of hardworking Americans, even while their children and grandchildren enjoy the luxury and promise of long life… the opportunity to achieve career goals, start a family and eventually play with their grandchildren.

Did George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, or Colin Powell send their progeny to Iraq? No. And none of 100 Senators and only two of 435 House Members sent their offspring to face a death that these same politicians so eagerly called "noble" or "heroic."

Didn’t our leaders want their own children to act nobly, too, by also fighting in this war? …to be heroes and heroines? Or did this "honor" – this privilege to die – only belong to those who pay the salaries of these leaders?

Must regular families bear the sacrifice while their so-called “leaders” posture for prestige?

War-deaths Benefit Officeholders Tremendously

Yes, politicians engage in posturing! These dead young Marines were brought back to Brookpark, Ohio. At the memorial service held in their honor, it was the politicians who were called upon to speak. No one thought this odd. It’s all become so normal. But…

  • They benefited from TV "face-time." Not even a paid political ad could’ve made them look so good – so humane.
  • They acted sorrowful, even while they misrepresented why these young people died.
  • They put on a display of caring. It shouldn’t escape notice that they did this with TV cameras rolling.
  • They utilized the moment to tell the hurting that they "felt their pain" (“so vote for me").

In other words, was the memorial service really about the fallen or about the men and women who sent them to their death for no good result?

Truly Honoring Life

Here’s what I believe: Marines lives matter. Those who serve in the military represent something noble. So…

Why don’t the deaths of these young Marines stir us to moral action against the politicians responsible for terminating their future?

Could it be because too many of us were likewise complicit in these deaths? Think of how many Americans cheered the politicians to war in Iraq. Maybe we must reform ourselves before we can reform our politicians. Here’s a good place to start…

Avoid sweet sounding myths when you honor those who served and died. Don’t claim that a soldier, sailor, airmen, or Marine was used to defend freedom unless you have the historical knowledge required to know that the statement is really true. And be extremely humble when you talk about what our wars achieved, lest you unwittingly serve the cause of subjecting more young people to needless death.

Let’s add these rules to the way we actually honor servicemen and servicewomen on this upcoming Veterans Day (November 11). We cannot bring back the Brookpark Marines. But we can honor them, going forward, by learning how to protect our troops from politicians and their interventionist policies.

Jim Babka is the co-founder and President of Downsize DC and the co-creator of the Zero Aggression Project. An earlier version of this article was published in 2005. It’s been edited and updated.