I have a picture on my hard drive. I don't look at it much, but I keep it around.
It's a picture of a four-year-old girl.
It's dark in the picture, but the girl is standing in a pool of light created by a Maglite attached to the barrel of a U.S. Marine's assault rifle. She's covered in blood. It's not hers. It's her parents' blood. They died when the Marines shot up their car for whatever reason things like that happen in Iraq. No weapons or explosives were found in the car. The girl in the picture is screaming, screaming while covered in her parents' blood.
Like I said, I don't look at that picture much. But I looked at it today in order to remind myself what five years in Iraq really means. I saved the picture because at the time it was taken my older daughter was four years old, and all I could think about after I saw it was my daughter, screaming while covered in her parents' blood.
My older daughter is seven now. We've been in Iraq for most of the time she's been alive. The war in Iraq encompasses the entirety of my younger daughter's time on this Earth. I'm having trouble remembering a time when we weren't in Iraq.
This isn't about the Marines. Maybe they were justified - shit, for all I know maybe the guy driving the car was Osama's BFF. Maybe it was what they call a "clean" kill, which means maybe the guys who did it will only wake up screaming from nightmares about it for the next five years or so rather than until the day they die. I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that no four year old girl deserves to find herself covered in her parents' blood.
This is about the reality of this war and all wars: a four year old girl screaming while covered in her parents' blood. War is not politics by other means, no god calls you to smite the infidel and save your soul, war is not what makes generations great. War is a dark lonely street and a bloody child. That's it.
Today I went and signed this petition, a Quixotic effort to get Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to stop tearing into each other with such gusto as to leave either too weak fight McCain in the general election. A month ago if you had asked me to sign such a petition I wouldn't have, as I thought that this vigorous primary contest was a good thing, whetting our eventual nominee for the fight to come and giving his or her ideas a highly visible platform. In other words, a month ago I was an idiot. I haven't heard an idea yet in this contest - have you?
I want you to go and sign that petition, too - even though I don't think either the Obama or Clinton camp will pay any attention to it. They've got too much invested in the fight at this point, and neither is going to give any quarter. I want you to sign it anyway, for a totally different reason: if you do something to remind yourself what's at stake in this election, maybe you won't be a complete fucking asshole to someone who supports the other candidate. Right now, we're in danger of leaving ourselves too exhausted for the general election too, and there's too much at stake this time to let that happen.
See, I don't care which one of our candidates gets the nomination. I really don't. Hillary's got corporate ties? I don't care. Obama's inexperienced? I don't care. Hillary's too polarizing? I don't care. Obama's pastor fucked a goat on the high altar on Christmas Eve? I don't care. I care about John McCain not becoming president. Period. John McCain thinks this gory clusterfuck in Iraq is a good thing, and what's more, he says he wants to start a few more wars, well, just because.
I'm not naive. I don't think Hillary or Obama is going to get us the hell out of Iraq right away and I'm not sure doing so is all that high on either one of their agendas. But at least with one of them we'll have a chance. At the very least, President Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama will take the oath of office knowing that a large percentage of their base want this war over; they want no more screaming children. President John McCain will take the oath of office knowing that his base thinks singing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" at a campaign event is funny as shit.
Like I said, with Hillary or Obama we have a chance. When I look at that picture on my hard drive, I know that I'll take whatever chance, however slim, that I can get.