A non-prophet reflects on reaching the number 2,000

I decided to write this article two weeks ago, when the American death toll in Iraq was still shy of 2,000. But I knew the milestone was coming. It doesn’t take a prophet to see a cycle of violence that kills with drumbeat consistency.

I marched in protest back in 2003, hollering at the White House and a president who didn’t seem to listen. I didn’t march as a liberal, a pacifist, a hippie or any combination of the three. I added my voice to the anti-war chorus as a Christian, and nothing else–a follower of Jesus who felt that attacking Iraq would trigger a maelstrom of violence.

Again, it doesn’t take a prophet to spot bad foreign policy and political arrogance.

But as another 4-digit death toll sprawls across the world’s headlines, it’s not anger that hits me, but grief.

I’ve searched through all the NY Times snapshots of my fellow Tennesseans, all the 18-year-olds, all the soldiers killed in May 2003, 2004, 2005. I see kids trying to look tough, some smiling in their graduation caps, others wearing helmets and flak jackets.

If there were a similar site for Iraqis it would take a week to peruse. According to allied military reports, Iraqi casualties have hovered around 50 a day in 2005. The nonprofit organization Iraq Body Count estimates non-insurgent deaths between 26,000 and 30,000. These pictures, of course, wouldn’t be of terrorists and insurgents, but of children, mothers, sisters and fathers–folks caught in crossfire and blown up by suicide bombers.

This war was wrong, and I feel it in my gut.

A lasting and just revolution doesn’t form by toppling governments with military force and occupying the violent vacuum. It overwhelmingly comes by the grassroots will of a population that has simply had enough.

Rumsfeld should have learned the lesson of Rosa Parks, whose memorial service he just attended. She helped dismantle an unjust system by sitting in the “wrong” seat on an Alabama bus, unarmed, without ground troops, without fighter jets.

Two thousand soldiers dead. Americans should use this marker as a flashpoint for reflection and prayer.

In fact, I don’t know what else to do but pray. I’ll pray for American troops and I’ll pray for the Islamic zealots strapping explosives to their chests. I’ll pray for our president (God help him) and I’ll pray for the fledgling Iraqi government as they wrestle to build a new nation.

But I think Bush and his cadre should resign and spend the rest of their political careers trying to fix the mess they’ve created.

Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld should spend the next 20 years sitting in the living rooms of fallen soldiers and visiting the graves of Iraqis caught in the wrong place and the wrong time.

They should articulate why a smattering of faulty evidence was used to justify war, and they should explain to the world why a mass of people greater than the population of Norristown is now dead.

I, for one, still don’t get it.

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