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Posted by on Dec 14, 2006 in At TMV | 9 comments

Bob’s Mother & The Ghost of Iraq War Future


Despite the magnitude of the deaths — 28 here, 57 there and 210 somewhere else, 550 one week and 700 the next — the carnage in Iraq is so predictable that it has begun to numb my senses.

Single-malt Scotch is too expensive, so the only way that I have been able to deal with this disconnect is to pretty much stop blogging on individual incidents such as the bomb blasts in Baghdad this week (70 dead, dozens wounded on Tuesday, another 17 dead, dozens wounded today) and focus on the Big Picture.

But what about my fellow Americans, who are a pretty numb bunch to begin with?

Most are figuratively if not literally shopping at the mall, and beyond the yellow “Support the Troops” ribbons on their SUVs, the obscenity that the Iraq war has become is an abstraction. That is unless they are the very rare person who knows a war veteran or happens to stroll past a TV store at the mall and catches a big-screen glimpse of the carnage before they avert their eyes and continue on to Victoria’s Secret.

How then to punch through the national Novocaine and bring home a war for which President Bush has not ever asked for sacrifice, only lip service? And continues to stubbornly state that “victory” remains America’s goal?

Never mind that the carnage doesn’t seem to register in the Oval Office, nor is there any rush to complete a comprehensive review of a war that the U.S. rushed into like a house on fire in the first place. Wrapping up that review will have to wait until after the New Year. In the meantime, the president will decamp to Crawford with Laura and the Twinsies for some photo-op brush clearing and a suicide bomber-free family Christmas.

Is there even a faint hope that someone — someone whose last name is not Sheehan — can leverage what legions of graybeards have been unable to do and shock George W. Bush out of his dream world?

When I ponder this fantasy — and it is a fantasy — I think of Bob Layton’s mother.

Bob and I attended university together. He was a Robert Redford-handsome engineering major, president of a fraternity, head of the campus ROTC detachment and engaged to marry a beauty on whom I had an unrequited crush.

Bob went off to Vietnam a freshly-minted Infantry second lieutenant, where he was soon blown to smithereens. By the time he left this mortal coil, the trickle of American flag-draped pine boxes being carried out of the rectums of cargo planes to the central morgue at Dover Air Force Base had become a flood.

Bob’s mother was heartbroken. But she also was angry. Angry about President Johnson’s serial lies concerning the progress of the war, the changing rationales for being in Vietnam, his refusal to acknowledge and correct mistakes, and a humility-free “trust us” condescension that had taken her son from her forever.

I’ll give David Halberstam, Uncle Walter Cronkite and the anti-war movement some credit, but it was Bob Layton’s mother and others like her who ultimately turned America against the obscenity that the Vietnam War became and drove LBJ from office.

History is repeating itself in Iraq in some respects. And so, this holiday season, I would like to think that my fantasy comes true through a contemporary version of that classic scene in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” when an uninvited guest pays a visit to Ebenezer Scrooge’s bedchamber.

Picture the president settling into a long winter’s nap when he hears the clanking chains of the Ghost of Iraq Future and then these words:

“President Bush. Oh, President Bush. Bob Layton’s mother is here to see you.”

* * * * *

If you ever visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., say hello to Bob for me. Or better still, run your hand across his name on the granite wall. It’s on Panel 21W, Line 54.

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Copyright 2006 The Moderate Voice
  • GreenDreams

    Good post Shaun. I too wonder what it will take. At least during Vietnam, there were images of flag draped boxes and yes, even -gasp- funerals. Today, the media is so cowed, or perhaps it is just that they are so owned, there’s a virtual gag order on ground truth. And our President says, and our media doesn’t explode in outrage, ‘Don’t listen to that bad news from the media. Just keep shopping’.

  • Krous

    Oh yes, and what we do not learn we are doomed to repeat.

    The Democrats learned hard lessons over Vietnam, but the republicans did not. In fact it was they that demanded the reins of leadership in order to “end the war with honor”. They did niether.

    After LBJ refused to run again, (an example of real honor), and, Robert Kennedy being suspiciously assassinated, the republicans unsurprisingly got what they wanted; Nixon. Elected in ’68 Nixon did not remove the troops until ’73, making a republican president in charge of the Vietnam debacle longer than a Democrat after the fact that it was a known failed war. U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended without honor and with a republican’s propensity for corruption, Nixon put a double X through any hope of American Honor! Proving to me that the republicans have NEVER been about honor.

    Now we have a repeat of the republican’s attempt at war. With the same stupid results! Even LESS honor than before with more republican resignations, indictments and convictions for corruption than ever in America’s history.

    After all these ignoramous republican attemts at war, hopefully the republicans will go back to their pop-guns and camouflage clothing and be happy playing fat anti-gubernment army-men in the Ozarks.

  • Gray62

    Very good article, Shaun!

    Yes, let’s think of all the soldiers, tragically losing their lifes in a country they should have never been sned to, and their grieving families, who stood up to this madness. May they find peace.

    And may George (a)W(ol) Bush have nightmares for the rest of his miserable life!

  • Kim Ritter

    I’ve always wondered just how much is about fighting for America’s honor abroad, and how much is about contributions from defense contractors and reconstruction contractors like Halliburton, and KBR, that obviously profit more when the war lasts longer.

    It also makes me suspicious that we hired foreign workers when so many Iraqis were unemployed. We wouldn’t hire them because of security concerns, yet we let them serve in the army and police forces???

    Add to that the permanent bases and 500$ million dollar embassy we built there, a lack of water and electricity, and its a perfect recipe for a healthy insurgency, and a tremendous recruiting tool for al queda.

    It also seems to me, the perfect way to send the message that we were longtime occupiers, not the liberators we long to see ourselves as.

  • Paul in Austin

    It seems to me that the silent majority has begun to see that we have been sliding towards unacceptable government policies.

    Our system does work, but it is designed so that the pendulum swings back and forth slowly. In other words, its often has to get worse before it gets better.

    A sad consequence of this process is that there needs to be sufficient casualties of a policy before it motivates the majority of voters.

    As unpleasant as this is, it is better than the alternatives.

  • Tim in WI

    Most are figuratively if not literally shopping at the mall, and beyond the yellow “Support the Troops’ ribbons on their SUVs, the obscenity that the Iraq war has become is an abstraction.

    Have you noticed that there aren’t as many Support our Troops magnetic ribbons as there used to be? I always thought it was telling tht the public’s primary sign of support for this war came in the form of something that coule be easily removed without leaving a trace, as if it were never there.

  • Tim in WI:

    Good point, but the ribbons probably got scrubbed away going through car washes.

  • Johnny Bin Carrol

    Time to cut funding Dems….

    …this dog won’t hunt

    Get ready for the last wringing of profit for the MIC.

  • Krous

    Johnny Bin Carrol, I say fund education not the military. All the military in the world won’t do us any good if we are not smart enough to use it right. Clearly….etc…

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