The cost of Bush's "spiritual" war

Published September 29, 2004 5:41PM (EDT)

On Sept. 13, Sgt. Ben Isenberg was riding through Taji, Iraq, when his Humvee struck a roadside bomb. He was killed. Earlier this week National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" included a moving report from a memorial service for Isenberg in his hometown of Sheridan, Oregon. Isenberg, who was 27, came from a patriotic, devout Christian family with a long history of military and community service. After graduating college, he worked for the Oregon Department of Forestry before being deployed to Iraq with his unit from the Oregon National Guard.

With the continuing conflict in Iraq weighing heavily on the presidential race, the report from Isenberg's memorial is also a striking glimpse of how one American family, in the context of ultimate sacrifice, views President Bush's pivotal choice to take the nation to war.

"This war is not about Iraqis and Americans, [or] oil," said Robert Isenberg, Ben's father. "This is a spiritual war, and the people who don't understand that, they just need to dig into their bible and read about it. It's predicted, it's predestined."

Isenberg's father also told NPR that criticism of the war and its costs bothered his son, "because Benjamin understood that this was a spiritual war, and he understands that our current serving president is a very devout Christian also. Ben understood the calling was to go because the president had the knowledge and understood what was going on, and it's far deeper than we as a people will ever really know. We don't get the information that the president gets."

President Bush, who has never attended the funeral of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, can listen to the full report here. Ben Isenberg, it continues, had planned to return to university after serving in Iraq to earn a credential so that he could teach high school science. He leaves behind his parents, a sister, two brothers, his wife and their two sons, ages four and two.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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