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Saturday, June 26, 2004

I saw Max Cleland speak Monday night at a screening for a documentary about wounded/killed veterans of the Iraq conflict and their families. He is an inspiration to anyone who needs a kick in the ass to feel your own voice and power.

Captain Max Cleland came back from Vietnam without both legs, one arm, or his innocence about the righteousness of the conflict there. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he dug into his will and felt around for his faith in God. He went into politics and was eventually named head of the Veteran’s Administration under Jimmy Carter. He later served in the Senate.

Cleland has kept the faith with veterans of other conflicts and still today asks the question we must all ask of all wars, “Is what we’re doing worth the cost being paid?”

Cleland is no pacifist. He talks the “ground talk” of the soldier about the Iraq war. He discusses troop numbers, tactics, equipment, support elements, air cover and the strategy to achieve victory and get out. What Cleland gets mad about is that he feels the American soldier is being asked to do a job that’s ill defined and based on misleading information about the “enemy.”

He and the filmmaker he worked with show the people; mostly poor, and mostly willing to do their part to support the country’s goals, as they cope with the loss of their children and loved ones. Many of them have now turned against the mission they accepted as necessary when their family members left for Iraq.

These families (and the press) were prevented from seeing the caskets of their sons and daughters as they arrived back in the states. Cleland’s got a point when he challenges the government to let the families of our casualties and the public at large see our kids as they come home, see the cost of war and honestly debate whether the mission is worth more American lives.

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