April 21, 2004


The Lost Father: A new generation of battle-scarred children are doomed to spend their lifetimes asking, wasn't there any better way? (KAREN SPEARS ZACHARIAS, 4/21/04, NY Times)

I can remember what my father smelled like — sweat and sun-dried T-shirts — but I can no longer recall the timbre of his voice or the warmth of his embrace. Photos and memories are all I have left of him.

He went away in December 1965. "President Johnson has asked me to go to South Vietnam," he said.

"What are you going to do there?" I asked.

"Help fight communism," he replied.

I retreated to my room in tears. Only nine at the time, I didn't know that South Vietnam was half a world away and I sure to heck didn't know what communism was. I didn't even understand that my father would be in any danger. I cried simply because he was going away and I was afraid he would never come back. "I'll come back, I promise," Daddy said, wiping my tears as he sat on the edge of my bed.

Daddy kept his promise. He did come back: in a silver coffin, draped with a red-white-and-blue flag. [...]

My parents fell in love as kids. They expected to grow old together. But only Mama has grown old. She eats her soup beans and cornbread alone and remembers with heartache the man who enticed her to laugh on sunny days.

I'm troubled by the nightmares that surely await this generation of battle-scarred children. I know they will grow up longing for just one more embrace. And like me, they are doomed to spend their lifetimes asking, wasn't there any better way?

Did Saddam's million victims not have children, parents, and other loved ones, just like the hundreds of US servicemen who have been killed? What was their better way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 21, 2004 9:17 AM

Gee, suddenly, Ms. Zacharias is concerned about children growing up without fathers. It's so heart-wrenching, isn't it? Besides the Iraqi children she seems to have no concern about, I wonder if she would rite the same type of emotional column about children of single mothers? About children of divorce? About children being raised by two lesbians? I suspect that she wouldn't.

Posted by: L. Rogers at April 21, 2004 9:48 AM


Looking at the headline I just sort of assumed that was what the editorial would be about--those millions of children.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 10:15 AM

Lighten up guys - it's about universal grieving for a loved parent. She was obviously very close to her father; I was quite moved by the story. She had to close that chapter of her life, of being loved by her Dad, at age 9. I won't pretend that, even after nearly 40 years, I wouldn't feel like grieving sometimes too.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at April 21, 2004 10:40 AM

Except that I'm tired of these people who believe that their grief entitles them to permanently inflict that grief on all around them, and to accuse anyone who isn't sufficiently accomodating in that grief of being cruel and heartless and a conservative. And I'm tired of them thinking that they are permantenly entitled to privileges and exemptions and a deeper knowledge of the way the world works simply because a relative got lucky and died in a spectacular or public manner instead of by "natural causes".

(I'm in a grumpy mood today.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 21, 2004 11:50 AM

Thanks for being grumpy, Raoul. I don't think this woman is "doomed" to do anything.

Posted by: OldHat at April 21, 2004 12:13 PM

>Did Saddam's million victims not have children,
>parents, and other loved ones, just like the
>hundreds of US servicemen who have been killed?

That's different.

They were wogs.

Nothing like us Enlightened and Anointed (TM) who were so traumatized by Vietnam and that EEEVIL BusHitler.

Posted by: Ken at April 21, 2004 1:14 PM

She is certainly entitled to her grief, and I hope she and her mother find peace, but I wish she would take one moment to consider that her father really was sincere in his belief that the risks entailed in his job were worth it, both for the future of his own children as well as Vietnamese future.

Posted by: brian at April 21, 2004 1:27 PM

Hussein regime's massacres were long behind it, and they occurred with our tacit support. In the last few years he was executing a few hundred people a year, many of which were criminals. Is that good? No, it is not, but compared to the 10,000 civilian death we've inflicted on Iraq it's trivial.

Posted by: Derek Copold at April 21, 2004 3:08 PM


An excellent argument for isolation. The six million Jews were dead by the time we liberated Germany, so what was the point?

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 3:49 PM

We didn't go to war with Germany to save the Jews or on the Jews' account. We went to war, firstly, because they were stupid enough to declare war on us, and secondly, because if Germany had beaten Britain they would have threatened our dominance of the Atlantic.

At any rate, if you're out to slay monsters, then you shouldn't pussy around with small fry like Hussein. You have China, N. Korea, the Sudan and many other countries that are far worse than even Hussein's Iraq.

Posted by: Derek Copold at April 21, 2004 5:43 PM


All in good time.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2004 6:11 PM

I didn't read the rest of the article, but it is entirely possible the answer to the question "And like me, they are doomed to spend their lifetimes asking, wasn't there any better way?" is No.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 21, 2004 9:06 PM