I have always been a vocal critic of the occupation of Iraq.
The problem is--now that I look back on it--my opposition was always been based on broader geopolitical or national paradigms. Things like inflaming Islamic radicalism. Or the cost of the war and what those costs were preventing us from achieving at home. Or the idea of an Iraq-Iran Shi'a superstate alliance. Or any other negative geopolitical consequence.
I'm not saying that the "human cost" of the war never factored into my calculations of whether to support or oppose it. Of course the figure of nearly 3,000 dead American soldiers hits me at an emotional level--as does the idea of about 500,000 dead Iraqis a fortiori. And I still get a few hits from my own personal blog from my writings about Abeer Qasim Hamza Al-Janabi, the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered during the massacre at Mahmoudiya.
But I just now learned that nothing can cement your opposition like knowing the human tragedies up close and personal.
I just spent half an hour consoling one of my best friends--who just found out that her cousin was just killed in Iraq.
Tung Nguyen was a Sgt. 1st class Green Beret based in Fort Bragg, N.C.--from what I understand, he was assigned to a Special Forces unit:
The Department of Defence said in a statement that Nguyen died when his unit encountered enemy forces using small arms. Special Forces Command said in its report that initial indications were his "wounds may have resulted from friendly fire."
I never met Tung--but my friend mentioned him occasionally during her stories about her childhood. I remember some stories about him taking my friend hunting when she was a little girl. More recently, though, I remember a different type of story from when Tung was home on leave visiting his family. My friend told me a report from Tung about how it was just about impossible to train Iraqi soldiers.
After spending time on the phone talking my friend through her tears, this occupation just got a lot more personal for me.
Along with this diary, I have a personal message for George Bush. You see, my friend's family is no stranger to war. Both her parents fought in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War. So, you know what, Mr. President? There are lessons to be learned from Vietnam. That lesson is this:
When you invade and occupy other countries, a lot of people die.