Halfstaffdusk

Remember that excellent, scholarly, reasoned plea from seven soldiers on the Op-Ed page of the NYT calling for withdrawal from the quicksand of Iraq? Two of the seven were killed Monday; one other was recently shot in the head and is very slowly recovering, as Fred Kaplan points out. That we are losing these best and brightest in this war without end or enduring purpose makes it all the more incumbent that we remember what they were trying to tell us:

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, ''We need security, not free food.''

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.

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