Monday, February 26, 2007


The letter that follows was published in The Burlington Free Press today. Although I am not certain, I believe the author to be a former state Senator from Chittenden County. I also believe he is a Democrat. Whatever his political affiliation, he articulates well what I and many others have been meaning to say all along.

A son, a father and the Iraq war

Published: Monday, February 26, 2007
J. Dennis Delaney

My son Luc is a naval officer, a 1999 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a recent recipient of a master's degree in mechanical engineering. He is married and the father of the sweetest daughter a grandfather ever fell in love with. To say that I am profoundly proud of my children would be a great understatement. At times I just sink back into the warmest contentment. Life could give no more.

Yet in all this bright sunshine of family happiness a dark cloud looms on the horizon: Luc tells us that he is at serious risk of being sent to Iraq. This threat, I think, gives me a firmer place to comment on the Iraq war.

With every fiber of my being I want the Iraq war finished. It is like a hair shirt I cannot pull off. The daily list of our young women and men killed in the fighting brings heartbreak, full and overflowing, to us all. I have always thought I could not bear the loss of a child, so I just don't know how the families of those killed in the war endure. I just don't.

Several weeks ago the New York Times published, as it does every day, the Names of the Dead in Iraq. Eight were on the list that day, all aged 25 and under. One was just 19.

On a straight horizontal line to the right of that list was the continuation of an article on the day's harsh violence in Baghdad. The story described the destruction of a family -- father, wife and three children-- "trapped in a burning car after a bomb exploded. The father, screaming for help, escaped. (B)ut two young children and an infant died with their mother in the fire." (New York Times, Dec. 27, 2006)

None of us can possibly imagine such stunning horror slamming into the life of an American family. The incident I just described was not an accident, it was war.

To those who say that the daily numbing chant of the names of our dead or the nameless Iraqis slaughtered, means that we must quit Iraq and do so immediately, I understand. But I see beyond. I see countless Iraqi innocents -- fathers, mothers, children -- killed, if not by war then by that country's own endemic sectarian violence.

What is happening in Iraq is a humanitarian disaster. Those are not just big words, those are real people. The Iraqis are no less sisters and brothers to us in Vermont than are Americans in Indiana, Montana or Maine. The time to argue about this war's reasons for being, or the lack of them, rests with the future, with history's clearer eye. The present demands, however, that we Americans not abandon the helpless.

It is easy to talk about courage, about generosity until it hurts, about responsibility for others, and about not quitting on those who need us. It is infinitely more difficult to belly up to the bar and make them real when the price is relentless anguish and more "Names of the Dead" writ large each day.

I remember the story about an American prisoner of war who, when offered release from a prison camp, said no, that it wasn't his turn. Is it our turn to abandon the innocent and helpless of Iraq? I say no.

If we Americans want to begin earning the respect of the Muslim world, then we should begin that long journey by showing them that Americans do not turn their backs on Muslims or anyone else in awful jeopardy. Like it or not, and I know that we don't, it is our time to stand tall once again.

J. Dennis Delaney lives in Charlotte.

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