How does George Bush sleep at night? Here I am, lying in bed, on what Bush himself has declared our "National Day of Prayer" and I sure can't sleep. No, instead I'm tossing and turning as the day's news plays over and over in my mind. I see tortured POWs, beaten beyond recognition. I see Iraqi civilians, cut off from water and food, telling CNN reporters over and over that they don't hate Americans, they don't want to be killed, they just want peace. I see brave American boys and girls saying goodbye to their families as they are shipped halfway across the world to fight a war no one can explain, let alone justify. Their youth frightens me. These are not soldiers. They're the kids I hang out with, my brother and his friends. They should be worrying about grades and college, not dying in some desert over oil.
How dare George Bush bow his head in prayer for peace? Peace was not on his mind when he shipped 500,000 of our best and brightest men and women to fight a war that will have no winners. Peace was not George Bush's concern when he declared war or when he started dropping bombs with the glee of an eight-year-old playing Nintendo.
There's a lot of talk about casualties. We listen anxiously to the six o'clock news and breathe a sigh of relief when told there were no "American casualties" or no Allied soldiers killed. We don't give a second thought to the Iraqi people. Do their lives mean less than ours? When we bomb Iraqi bases, do we care about the people inside, or nearby? Is this our crusade for humanitarianism and common decency? When Americans shoot down an Iraqi plane, what about that pilot? Is his death irrelevant? I bet his wife won't think so, or his children. Is the value of your life determined by the land of your birth? Doesn't a human life have a certain meaning that transcends all cultural and political differences?
We are so accustomed to large numbers that our minds have become jaded. We can't really comprehend that 500,000 of our citizens are in the Gulf right now. That's one in every 500 Americans. And why are we over there? A fight for freedom? Come on, wake up! We're fighting to restore a monarchy. A king.
Sometimes I wonder about the people who make these decisions, people like George Bush and Dick Cheney. Are they people like you and me? Do they see the heartbreak and meaninglessness? Do they watch the news? Do they see the four-year-old children kissing mommy goodbye as she leaves for Saudi Arabia? Do they think America has lives to spare? How many? 1,000? 10,000? How many until it's enough for George? We're sorry we called him a wimp, already.
But see, that's the kind of thing that really gets me angry. Because it's not George Bush or any of his cronies who are going to be fighting this war. It's 18-year-old kids who wanted to go to college. Who just a year ago watched Bush himself echo in a New Decade of Peace, as the Berlin Wall tumbled down.
I guess I have to wonder where he even gets off believing he has the right to send these kids off to die in his war. When they're shipped home in body bags, will he be able to justify it? Can he explain it to the grieving mothers and widows? Will he explain it to me?
So far our government takes pride in maintaining "light casualties." Now there's an oxymoron for you. Light causalities. The first American casualty was an airplane pilot from Jacksonville, Florida. His mother didn't think that casualty was "light." And I'm willing to bet she didn't care whether he was the first casualty, or the thousandth, or the hundred thousandth. Would George like to explain to that man's children that even though Daddy died, not a lot of other people did? Can you honestly imagine they care?
I love America deeply, but I don't feel it is immune to mistakes.You get one madman, who makes a grab for a small, oil-rich country and a president who wants to show the world how tough he is, and you've got problems. But, as Americans, we have the right to question: To ask if the ends justify the means? If there really couldn't be a peaceful resolution? If it's worth the deaths of our parents and children, our brothers and sisters? I'm saying it's not. I'm saying I value my countrymen more than blind faith in my leaders. I love my country very much, and its citizens even more, and I don't want to see them dead. I don't want to see anyone dead. And I can't imagine that any person with a hint of sanity, regardless of age, gender or nationality, truly does. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.