Your cause of sorrow/ Must not be measured by his worth, for then/ It hath no end.

Christopher Hitchens:

As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark’s letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:

For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:

But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.

4 thoughts on “Your cause of sorrow/ Must not be measured by his worth, for then/ It hath no end.”

  1. Bitter irony: lots of the troops signed up after 9/11 to “fight terrorism.” Lots of what we’re doing over there is going to spawn new terrorists for decades.

  2. The Mark Daily’s over there are fine. They’re like the priests who went out on the Spanish missions. I really believe that their intentions are noble.

    It’s just that the leadership of this country keeps treasure hunting for new reasons whenever the justification for this mission comes into question. First it was preventing a clear and present attack on US soil. Saddam Hussein was about to fire nuclear weapons at us. Mushroom clouds on the horizon! We had to go seize his WMDs! Yellowcake purchases! Aluminum tubes! Wait, that wasn’t plausible. Actually he was training terrorists to do it. He was working with Al Qaeda (remember when Saddam’s men flew planes into those buildings?) Wait, there was barely any evidence of that. Actually we’re there to save the people from a brutal dictator! That’s it! Humanitarian reasons! You can’t question that – Saddam Hussein was unquestionably a bad man.

    The formal name for this is Cognitive Dissonance. The people in charge, and the people who put them in charge:
    1: Didn’t think their cunning plan all the way through.
    2: Cannot admit that they made a mistake.
    3: Will latch onto any explanation that makes it seem plausible that the current state of affairs was their real plan all along.
    4: If the new explanation falls apart, go to step 2.

    The “The Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein” thing is now crumbling in the face of widespread allegations of abuse at the hands of coalition soldiers and a really high civilian death toll. Now we’re seeing “Suppression of Iranian nuclear ambitions” as the new reason for the mission. My response is “go fish.”

  3. I think you’re arguments are a little over done, but the sentiments are shared.

    The real test is whether the mistakes of this administration will matter more to the “hearts and minds” than the action of soldiers on the ground.

    I tend to think on net the soldiers actions (despite allegations of abuse) are good. On net, the president’s actions bad. The net net, I don’t know…

    The good news is that American governments will always be spun negatively in the M.E. by the news organizations there. This means that even when we have a bad one, it sort of washes out.

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