Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The morning paper's ink stains my fingers: CCXXVIII:
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The "What Gives You The Right..." series is under new lyrical management.

This evening, I had dinner at the U.S. Embassy with an acquaintance of mine from Fort Leavenworth who'll I'll call Major S. Major S is a tremendously thoughtful person and someone who I'm sure will make an exemplary flag officer if he so desires. Under Petraeus at Leavenworth, his knowledge of and interest in counterinsurgency really found a home. About a year ago, he was assigned to Baghdad; now, I joked, it's clear Petraeus can't live without him.

"So, Spencer," he asked me, "what's up with this casualty series on your blog?" I explained that it had frustrated me for a long time to receive DOD casualty announcements in my inbox and not have a space to compile them, and I wanted to add a word of anger about the loss of life as a commentary about the stakes in the war. We've always tried to be candid with each other, and he told me that both the profanity in the lyric offended him, as did his inference that soldiers came across in the lyric -- and, subsequently, my use of it -- as thoughtless, manipulated automatons as well as professionals who made a choice to serve their country.

We went back and forth for a bit, as I didn't see it his way. But then he told me that his brother is serving on a difficult combat assignment, and if he saw his brother's name under that headline, he'd be angry and feel that I was manipulating his brother's death.

And so I lost all desire to argue the point. The last thing I want is to cause additional pain to a grieving family. I offer my apologies to anyone who's taken offense. Thanks, Major S, for opening my eyes, but the truth is I shouldn't have had to be told that what I was writing is offensive, or even potentially offensive, to have seen that it could could be. I want the series to be a commemoration with a word of protest, not to have political commentary overwhelm the memorial. So, from now on, I'm going to use a different Stars lyric that, I hope, better captures my intention.

March 05, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public/Industry(703) 428-0711

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Gould, 28, of Longmont, Colo., died March 2 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Gould was assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the Camp Pendleton public affairs office at (760) 725-5044.
--Spencer Ackerman
I wouldn't say I was offended by the old title, but I think this is far more fitting.

-Sam L.
Blogger Oberlinblogger | 1:37 PM

Well, I understand why Major S. would be uncomfortable with your casualty roll and I see why you're changing the lyrics.

That being said, the death of a uniformed combatant IS a political event ... I think the tendency to consign the war dead to a realm of gauzy light beyond politics is dangerous.

Your blog, excellent though it may be, is inadequate to memorializing the fallen. Let the friends and family of the dead do that. I would keep posting your casualty notices
Blogger The Special | 2:01 PM

Major S makes the same essential point as Barney Frank did with respect to "wasted lives" - while an accurate description of what has actually occurred, it caused unnecessary pain to those with a more personal connection to the event - unnecessary because of the availability of many alternatives which contained all the same content in a less wounding manner.
Blogger Pooh | 4:32 PM

Just keep posting the names, whatever the title.
Blogger dr | 8:20 PM

I've always had trouble with "wasted lives" because it strikes me as an unnatural commodification of human life. A human life is not a unit of goods or money - it can't be wasted any more than a work of art. Still,I think it's OK to say that people died "for no good reason" in a foolish and immoral war...
Blogger The Special | 7:19 AM

As a Marine reservist, I didn't find the line offensive so much as obviously wrong. What gave them the right? The fact that I and every other serviceman and woman raised our right hand out of our own free will and swore. As I was reminded countless times by numerous drill instructors and training NCOs, USMC means (among other things) "U Signed the Motherf*ckin' Contract."
Blogger Tequila | 1:16 PM

Punk anarchist aesthetics don't mesh with military pride. Who knew?

Can you look at a soldier's death apolitically in a free society? Can you really separate the honor, duty, and sacrifice of our soldiers from the goals and consequences of the mission? Dunno.

It seems like what's offensive in the title depends on the context of the reader. But whatever you call the casualty roll, I don't see these notices anywhere else. So keep posting.
Blogger Harvey Birdman | 2:40 PM

What happened to CCXXVII?

I'm a Navy Reservist. I appreciate seeing the anger and the announcement every time. I'm on a list for mobilization to CENTCOM, and members of my unit have been pulled for Individual Augmentation. While 'tequila' is obviously right about the technical authority involved, the idea that an strategically-inept President who served marginally in the Texas Air National Guard to avoid the draft can somehow stomach the continuing high cost of his miscalculations without tightening his OODA loop by orders of magnitude and paying whatever political price is necessary to make his objectives possible is odious--especially when the cost of his reticence is paid in the blood of my brothers.
Blogger somebody else | 8:40 PM