Sacrificing Captain Ryan
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Essay
Thursday 11 September 2003
I'm a surfer. I live in southern California and go surfing to refresh my body and my mind.
A few months back, as I was coming up from the beach, a young man passed me headed the other way. His appearance was noteworthy; he had a shock of red hair and a big smile. We did not speak, nor did we ever become friends. At that moment I did not even know his name. I do now. His name was Ryan Anthony Beaupre. His face appeared in a New York Times montage of U.S. soldiers killed in battle in Iraq. He had been stationed at the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine base. He, too, enjoyed surfing.
The notice read: "Marine Captain Ryan Anthony Beaupre of St. Anne Indiana, age thirty years."
I remember as though it were yesterday walking down Main Street in my home town on a warm summer evening thirty years ago, listening to Richard Nixon announce the end of the Vietnam war. I did not stop at any point along the street to listen; I did not have to. Nixon's voice resonated from every cafe, barber shop, TV set and radio along that street. The war was over; I didn't need to stop; it was time to move on. Right about the time the Vietnam War was ending, Ryan Anthony Beaupre was born. Thirty years ago. How in the course of his short life did he come to be a victim of yet another senseless conflict far from home?
Profit and loss
The American invasion of Iraq is what most wars are, a quest for power and money. In this case, the profit motive for those who planned this war is profound. Destroying Iraq funneled billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into the coffers of defense contractors directly beholden to George W. Bush and his father, George Herbert Walker Bush. In fact, the elder Bush directly represents the interests of many of those defense contractors through his dealings at the Carlyle Group. Now we have entered the 'reconstruction phase;' more billions paid to U.S. contractors with direct connections to the White House, including the lion's share to Dick Cheney's former employer Halliburton. Cheney is still on the Halliburton payroll, drawing one million dollars per year in "deferred retirement" benefits.
In the fall of 2000, the American people enjoyed an unprecedented budget surplus following a period of record prosperity. There were those who eyed that wealth with resentment and greed: they would come to power. The work done by this Administration represents the largest, most rapid transfer of public funds to private individuals in world history; there is no equal. If Mr. Bush is driven from power tomorrow, he will have succeeded in his primary mission, which was to enrich his family and the families of his inner circle for decades to come. The Bush family and all of their old Nazi alumni have succeeded again: Their world remains intact for generations to come. The cost is the cluster-bombing of Babylon, tens of thousands of Iraqis maimed, poisoned, slaughtered. The cost is Marine Captain Ryan Anthony Beaupre of St. Anne Indiana, age thirty years.
Life and death in a foreign land
For American servicemen and women stationed in Iraq, the concept of a quagmire is not a subject for debate. It's a fact of life, and death. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush Administration officials scoffed at terms like "clearly defined mission" and "exit strategy." It has not been 150 days, and the original mission, having proven itself to be a scandalous lie, is replaced by public relations banter, and the exit strategy is cancelled until further notice. The mission behind the mission that none dare speak of is: to maintain a plausible military presence in Iraq for as long as the American people are willing to pay billions upon billions of dollars to support it.
If you're an American soldier serving in Iraq today, the only way out is on a stretcher or in a body bag. Tour of duty assignments have been extended indefinitely for those already in-country, and with the Pentagon and the White House agreeing that no new troops are needed, that means no reinforcements. These men and women are pinned down on an island, in the middle of the desert. They are forfeited, not for freedom or democracy, all of which are sacrificed right along with them. Their lives are discarded for power and for money.
Supporting our troops
I returned, a few days ago, to the same beach on which I had passed Captain Ryan Anthony Beaupre months earlier and encountered another young man. This young man jumped out of a brand new SUV and wore a T-shirt that used the stars and stripes to spell out the slogans, "Support Our Troops -- USA -- Operation Iraqi Freedom." He began speaking with a group of men that seemed to accept him as a friend. I wanted to walk up to him and ask him this: Can I know that these young men and women have been betrayed and left to die in a foreign land and not demand -- this day -- that they be brought home? I wanted to ask the young man in the T-shirt what really supporting our troops meant. I wanted to ask these questions, but I did not, for fear that I would be scorned. God forgive me.
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