On Monday, April 29, 2013 Pfc. Kimberly Rivera was sentenced to 10 months in prison. The previous Thursday, former president George W. Bush presided at the opening of his library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The two seemingly unrelated events -- both reported by many media outlets -- converge at the intersection of the Iraq war and the duty of a soldier. Pfc. Rivera was found guilty of desertion for failing to return to Iraq for her second tour of duty. She felt the war was unjust and that she could no longer be a part of it. She is now in Ft. Carson (where I was stationed 57 years ago) with her unborn child waiting to be taken to another location. Her husband and four children have returned to Texas.
Bush, on the other hand, is free to bask in the glow of a quarter of a billion dollar edifice built to glorify his presidency. Bush is responsible for starting an unwarranted and illegal war that resulted in more American deaths than did the events of 9/11. The death toll of Iraqi men, women and children is numbered in the hundreds of thousands, according to a March report by Reuters, either directly or as a result of internal strife unleashed by the invasion. The injuries to people, schools, hospitals, factories, power plants, sewage treatment plants and the human psyche are incalculable. An unrepentant president and a cadre of his followers believed in American exceptionalism and an imperial presidency.
The criminal actions of Bush constitute war crimes and are rightly juxtaposed to the actions of a soldier who saw a higher duty -- a duty that transcended her personal freedom. Pfc. Rivera not only spoke out against what she saw as an unjustified war but she also represented the conviction of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions throughout the world.
At the library all four former presidents spoke of how Bush was so personable and easy to like. President Obama, perhaps blinded by the Texas sun, even went so far as to say "he is a good man."
A good man a just man, even a president, can not, and must not be measured by how he acts in private. A war criminal is still a criminal even if he loves his children and family.
-- Dan C. Winters has been in Iraq on three occasions as an anti-war activist.