Andrew Bacevich and his wife personally experienced those consequences in the most tragic way when they lost their son Andrew Bacevich, Jr., who was killed in the Sunni triangle north of Bagdad on Mother’s Day 2007. A few weeks later, on May 21, his family buried him in a cemetery in Walpole, Massachusetts. Thousands of people lined the streets of the town to witness the funeral procession—a gesture that “profoundly moved” the Bacevichs. Andrew Jr.’s death was the first casualty of the Iraq War for Walpole. Andrew Sr. supported his son’s decision to enlist in the military, but continued to write critically about the war and President Bush’s prosecution of it.
Was this a disjunction? Bacevich ruminated on it, especially after receiving two messages contending “that my son’s death came as direct result of my antiwar writings.” Bacevich reasoned that such a charge, while seemingly vile, forced him to consider “what exactly is a father’s duty when his son is sent into harm’s way?” He answered that like his son’s service to the nation as a soldier, he, as a critic of the war in which his son fought, was doing his duty as well. But both father and son saw the tragedy of war: for Bacevich he lost his son to the war he opposed and lost hope that speaking out against war would make a difference. Bacevich remarked ruefully, “Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.’s life is priceless. Don’t believe it.” The cost of the war was in fact the point, he argued. It was about money—money to buy influence, money spent on the war that sank the economy, and money that was given to the family of a fallen soldier to pay them for the sacrifice they made for the nation. “I know my so did his best to serve our country,” Bacevich concluded. “Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.”
Bacevich’s profound sense of loss came in the two areas that matter most: the personal and the mythical. He lost his son to a war that had done a great deal to undermine the mythical nature of the nation he loves. Through his work, Bacevich has expressed his agape for America—his love for the nation that has been hard-earned through suffering and extensive reflection. He is not merely a cold-water critic, dousing the hopes of Americans—he chose not to dash the wishes of his son when he wanted to serve his nation. He wrote in Limits of Power, “ironically Iraq may yet prove to be the source of our salvation. For the United States, the ongoing war makes plain the imperative of putting America’s house in order. Iraq has revealed the futility of counting on military power to sustain our habits of profligacy. The day of reckoning approaches. Expending the lives of more American soldiers in hopes of deferring that day is profoundly wrong.”
Can Bacevich find something in the fact that he was right?
 Wendy Murray, “U.S. delusions: An army man changes his mind,” The Christian Century Magazine, August 11, 2009, accessed at:
 Andrew Bacevich, “I Lost My Son to a War I oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty,” Washington Post, May 27, 2007).
 Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 12-13.