Bring 'Em Home

By Tim Whitaker
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 7, 2005

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"It's just one more tragedy of the misguided war," says Philadelphian Celeste Zappala, who spent several days in the blazing Crawford, Texas, sun with Cindy Sheehan, the country's best-known antiwar activist.

Zappala is talking about Iraq.

She's also talking about the hurricane.

"The people who could've rescued families in New Orleans," she says, "were in Iraq instead."

The exact number of National Guard troops who were available for hurricane duty is a piece of the puzzle that'll be studied closely when investigators try to figure out how and why our federal government so royally screwed up the recovery effort.

Be sure of this, though: The number of troops that were needed in New Orleans couldn't have been any higher.

Zappala's son joined the Pennsylvania National Guard to help communities in distress, just like New Orleans. He told his mother that when he signed up for duty.

He saw the National Guard as honorable service, the kind of work that made you proud.

Iraq was never part of that equation.

He didn't expect to go there.

He surely never imagined he could die there.

Stories as big as Hurricane Katrina don't disappear quickly.

Lives need to be set straight, a city rebuilt, a culture restored to health.

What this hurricane did to New Orleans and parts of Mississippi and Alabama will be studied, chronicled and memorialized for decades-in books and movies and songs. We won't forget.

Soon, though, when the rebuilding work in New Orleans falls into a kind of predictable pattern-and it will, at some point-the media will start to multitask again.

News stories from other parts of the world will again vie for space and time.

And that's when Iraq, with its suicide bombers, roadside bombs and ever escalating death tolls, will be back on the front page.

The questions will again be put to administration officials and military spokespeople: Is the insurgency growing? Do our troops have the right protection? Are we attacking terrorism, or spreading it?

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