A couple of weeks ago, I attended a press conference by Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha, where he announced that Marines had killed innocent Iraqis in Haditha. He had made news, so I reported it. Since then the New York Times' estimable Eric Schmitt has picked up the story and run with it.
Something has been bothering me, though. I never wrote down the most memorable passage of Murtha's remarks that day. He was talking about his belief that President Bush and his military commanders have no plan for victory in Iraq. He was talking about the loss of focus, the lack of a clear mission and the mounting death toll. He was talking about the danger of improvised explosive devices, the roadside bombs that kill American soldiers and journalists. "What is the mission of our troops?" he asked, rhetorically. There was a pause. "Our troops are looking for IEDs. They are getting killed looking for IEDs."
I keep thinking about that line. Can it be true that our soldiers' primary mission in Iraq has become trying not to get killed? I really hope Murtha is mistaken, blinded by partisanship or bad information. Maybe there still is a real plan for victory. Maybe the Iraqis need us there just a little longer before they get it together. Maybe there is some progress somewhere. I'd like to think so. Because if troops are dying for no other reason, then I am having a hell of a time reading through this list of names.
Cpl. Robbie Glen Light; Lance Cpl. Robert L. Moscillo; Private 1st Class Christopher M. Eckhardt; Capt. Brian S. Letendre; Sgt. Joseph E. Proctor; Pfc. Benjamin T. Zieske; Spc. Bryan L. Quinton; Staff Sgt. Gavin B. Reinke; Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler; Sgt. Elisha R. Parker; Sgt. Nathan J. Vacho; Sgt. Carlos N. Saenz; 1st Sgt. Teodoro Torres; Pvt. Alva L. Gaylord; Staff Sgt. Dale James Kelly Jr.; Staff Sgt. David Michael Veverka; Cpl. Cory L. Palmer; Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps; Sgt. Matthew J. Fenton; Staff Sgt. Emmanuel L. Legaspi; Staff Sgt. Gregory A. Wagner; Spc. Aaron P. Latimer; Sgt. Alessandro Carbonaro; Spc. Eric D. Clark; Spc. Armer N. Burkart; Pvt. Stephen P. Snowberger III; Lance Cpl. Jason K. Burnett; Lance Cpl. David J. Grames Sanchez; 2nd Lt. Michael L. Licalzi; Cpl. Steve Vahaviolos; Lance Cpl. Adam C. Conboy; Spc. Brandon L. Teeters; Spc. Ron Gebur; Lance Cpl. Richard Z. James; Chief Warrant Officer 4 John W. Engeman; Master Sgt. Robert H. West; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jamie D. Weeks; Maj. Matthew W. Worrel; Lance Cpl. Jose S. Marin-Dominguez Jr.; Lance Cpl. Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby; Capt. Shane Mahaffee; Pvt. 1st Class Grant Allen Dampier; Staff Sgt. Marion Flint Jr.; Staff Sgt. Santiago M. Halsel; Petty Officer 3rd Class Lee Hamilton Deal; Lt. Robert Seidel III; Sgt. Lonnie Calvin Allen Jr.; Pvt. 1st Class Nicholas Cournoyer; Lt. Col. Colonel Daniel E. Holland; Cpl. William B. Fulks; Lance Cpl. Benito A. Ramirez; Sgt. David Christoff Jr.; Lance Cpl. William J. Leusink; Pvt. Steven Freund; Spc. Michael L. Hermanson; Lance Cpl. Robert G. Posivio III; Capt. Douglas A. DiCenzo; Spc. Robert E. Blair; Pvt. 1st Class Caleb A. Lufkin; Lance Cpl. Adam Lucas; Cpl. Ricky Bennett; Spc. J. Adan Garcia; and Spc. Jeremy M. Loveless. The names of four others have not yet been released.
They are all Americans and they all died this month in Iraq. There are 67 in total, some as young as 19. The total count of American military dead now stands at 2,471.