Does focusing on families' grief detract from war debate?

In his Aug. 16 commentary, "The Iraq war and the politics of grief," Brendan O'Neill sees grieving families as caught between isolation from the right and exploitation from the left and denounces this as a sorry substitute for serious political debate, which will only increase their grief. In my view, the politics of grief are really a result of the elimination of serious political debate in the US.

Mr. O'Neill points out that when war can be justified, the resulting grief can be understood and moderated in that context. It is this justification that should be brought forward through real debate, before a war. But when serious political debate is gone, war can neither be given meaning nor exposed as meaningless in this forum. Such a war can only then be understood via its consequences and via the reactions of ordinary people whom the war has touched. The absence of debate has made grief a political force.
James McCreight
Boulder, Colo.

O'Neill hit the nail on the head when he said they were using families' grief to help the antiwar movement. As the wife of a soldier, I want to point out we are never told anything much when a soldier is wounded. My husband was wounded and all we get is that his treatment will be at least another year. Families I know who have met with the president get the same speech over and over ... "on behalf of a grateful nation."

This does not stop their tears, and it won't. My only point is someone has to do this job, it's ugly and it's brutal, but we as military families support them. Does it hurt? Most certainly. But someone has to be there for them so this isn't another Vietnam.
Catressa Villanueva
Fort Lewis, Wash.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a liberal who opposed this war in Iraq, months before it happened, is that people like Mr. O'Neill now accuse us of using the grief of mothers to cynically exploit their sorrow. Millions of Americans and Europeans tried to put a stop to this madness before it began. But Bush and Blair insisted they knew what they were doing. It was a stupid enterprise right from the start.

I'm a World War II veteran and I still grieve over friends and relatives lost in that so-called "good war." When are we going to get leaders who only turn to war as a last resort? Ben Franklin had it right, there is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.
Peter O'Malley
Concord, Mass.

Our US corporate media are focusing on Cindy Sheehan in an obsessive manner, as they are often prone to do, whether or not the story is of any substance. One could have a long discussion on why they act this way, but I do think this story has substance. We need to find out the real reasons we went to war in Iraq and what this administration hopes to accomplish there. There needs to be an accounting and responsiblity for what has happened, both to the greiving parents and to our country and to the world.

But most importantly, to the Iraqi people.
Susan Oehler
Asheville, N.C.

A mother's pride in her military son

I really enjoyed Sue Diaz's Aug. 22 Opinion piece, "Walking the walk: From fog of war a son emerges a soldier." My son, Joel, 19, joined the Air Force this last May. I was honored to be present at his Basic Training graduation and the first time I saw him I couldn't believe my eyes, "That's not my son. But it is my son. He looks like a man. Standing tall and straight and proud and handsome as heck."

It's a wonderful thing to see the transformation of your dear son becoming a man and soldier in the great military in the world.
Beth Barnat
Winters, Calif.

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