Remembering the dead
How Iraq came home to haunt America
For months doubts over Iraq have risen along with the death toll. Last week a tipping point was reached as political leaders in Washington and London began openly to think the unthinkable: that the war was lost
Peter Beaumont, Edward Helmore and Gaby Hinsliff
Sunday October 22, 2006
Colonel Tom Vail is planning a road trip around the United States. It is his last, sad duty before returning to his family from eastern Baghdad. For when the commander of the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne arrives back in the States, it will be with videos of the memorial services held in Baghdad for each of his fallen soldiers to give to the families of the dead men.
He knows that some of the families will not want to see him, and he understands. Grief works in different ways, he says. For others, however, it will be an opportunity to talk, to learn something, he hopes, of the inexplicable nature of their children's deaths.
So, when he has a moment, when he is not driving round the battlefield that is eastern Baghdad, Vail examines the map and plans his flights and his car hire. And he wonders at the reception he will receive - a messenger of death, bringing the war back from Iraq to the home front.
For when Vail and his soldiers return, it will be in the knowledge that the United States that they are going home to is not the one that they left. That in their year-long absence a seismic shift has occurred in support for the war in Iraq. And that the deaths that Colonel Vail must carry back with him to grieving families - deaths that once seemed to Americans to be a necessary cost - now seem to the majority a dreadful and pointless waste.
It will also be in the knowledge that the battle that they began with such confidence barely four months ago, to secure and then rebuild some of the most dangerous areas of the Iraqi capital, like the campaigns before, has failed.
posted by Steve @ 12:43:00 AM