The number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq had reached 1,000 by mid-week, and while that number has to make you stop and reflect on how difficult the war there has been, it is in pondering individual deaths that the true impact lies.
Lisa Hoffman of Scripps Howard News Service tells us about Pfc. Harry Shondee, a 19-year-old who came from a poor Navajo family and was brilliant in science. With aspirations to become an architectural engineer, he had hoped to finance his education with GI benefits. He was instead killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Was his death in vain? Were all those others?
Some in fact argue that this is a pointless war, and others that it is a quagmire, something from which it will be extremely difficult to extract ourselves. But was there a way to avoid it and maintain our security? Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made a case at the Republican National Convention that there was not.
"The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close," he said. "The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come to do business with Saddam. . . . Our choice wasn't between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war. It was between war and a graver threat."
Saddam Hussein, McCain continued, would have acquired weapons of mass destruction again. "The central security concern of our time," he said, "is to keep such devastating weapons beyond the reach of terrorists who can't be dissuaded from using them by the threat of mutual destruction."
McCain spoke of those who are serving in the military there, calling them "the very best of us." And his words are persuasive that the American deaths in that war have not been in vain.