“Stay the course” sounds appealing in the abstract because, let’s face it, nobody likes a quitter and most people desperately want their country to succeed. But when you get behind the political rhetoric and focus on the human toll of Bush’s Iraq policy, the slogans seem barren and not a little repulsive. I’m a big fan of critical analysis (at least in others) and I tend to eschew emotional arguments but I don’t think you can examine a war policy from a completely detached position.

This young man, who doesn’t even look old enough to shave, is Marine Cpl. Stephen Bixler. He is, sadly, Connecticut’s most recent casualty of the Iraq war. He was killed May 4, 2006 while on foot patrol in the province of Fallujah.

The Hartford Courant wrote: “Bixler leaves behind his parents, Richard and Linda; a twin sister, Sandra; and dozens of people who knew him as intelligent and athletic, and as a quiet but strong leader, whether it was in the Boy Scouts or on the high school cross-country team.”

The only reason I’m writing about this is because I saw a Chris Matthews interview with Van Taylor, an Iraq war veteran who is running for Congress in the district that includes Mr. Bush’s Crawford ranch. He’s a Republican and he favors “seeing Iraq through” to victory.

He supports the president, he supports the continuation of the war and, despite being a Congressional candidate, he cannot tell us why we invaded Iraq:

MATTHEWS: So why did we attack Iraq then? Why did we attack Iraq then?

TAYLOR: Regardless of why we may have started fighting, and I served as a marine …

MATTHEWS: I‘m asking the question, why did we attack Iraq? Why did we go into Iraq?

TAYLOR: That‘s not the question that we need answered.

MATTHEWS: It‘s mine.

TAYLOR: It‘s what do we do now?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What‘s wrong with me asking the question? We are in a war.

Pearl Harbor started World War II.

TAYLOR: That‘s a question you can ask …

MATTHEWS: What start it? Why did we go into Iraq?

TAYLOR: That is a question you can ask historians, but today we need to send people to Washington who understand the war on terror. There is not a single member of the United States Congress that has served in the war on terror, and there are only two dozen combat veterans. I will be the very first. We need to send people like me in Washington. [Full transcript here]

In three months we will have been in Iraq as long as we were in WWII and the supporters of this war still can’t tell us why we’re there. (During Vietnam — before this blogger’s living memory — they couldn’t tell us how we’d get out, but at least they told us why we were there!)

As Election Day approaches, Americans — foremost among them people like the Bixler family — have an absolute right to have that question answered.

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