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James Ferragut, Published July 25 2010

Ferragut: A nation always at war?

It would be ridiculous to try to write something original on the insanity of war. The brightest minds have been immortalized by their opinions on war. It’s ironic that those who rage the most against war were the warriors: “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I have studied wars, learned of wars by talking with older generations, parents, warriors, survivors, victims. I’ve lost friends in war.

I came of age during the Vietnam War, the war that divided our country, widened the generation gap and changed our culture. The war ended because of the determination, protests and emerging influence of the baby-boom generation.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been mostly invisible. We’re still fighting the war long after the time George W. Bush suggested we go to the mall, and not dwell on Iraq. We had captured a demon. We were liberating Iraqis and giving them the light of democracy. So go ahead, America, we’re the good guys, have a great weekend.

Earlier this summer, I read David Finkel’s “The Good Soldiers.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Washington Post was embedded with the 2-16 Battalion in northeast Baghdad for 15 months. In excruciating detail, Finkel introduces us to the battalion, its leaders and to the 14 soldiers who were killed and the dozens wounded in their 18-month tour.

Finkel provides a snapshot of their private lives, the commitment and dedication they had as soldiers and to their thoughts on the ambiguity of our purpose for being there.

Ultimately, the reader is lead step by step through each of the soldier’s deaths. It is the most powerful, eloquent and disturbing missive on war I have ever read.

The book ends not on the battlefield, but as Finkel visited wounded soldiers from the 2-16 at the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and the families in the hometowns of the dead and wounded “good soldiers.”

The book forced me to think about the ongoing wars in the Middle East. Then, like an alarm clock, the death of U.S. Army Spc. Keenan Cooper from Wahpeton, N.D., became a reminder of the war that most of us aren’t thinking about. Cooper wanted to be a soldier since he was a kid. He earned the highest respect of his brothers in arms. He was a bright light in a dark world. He was the ultimate “good soldier.”

No one has expressed the irony of war better than Gen. Robert E. Lee, who said: “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

Keenan’s death was a reminder that we are at war, that we have always been at war, and we will always be at war. War is part of who we are. Maybe it’s because we are at war with ourselves.

Ferragut is a marketing executive. E-mail jferragut50@gmail.com