At the end of this column is the latest list of American soldiers killed in Iraq. The Pentagon stresses that they were killed in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." (We are giving Iraqis the freedom to kill us.) This list of 12 is for less than two weeks, ending October 21st. As I fail to find these names in other public prints, I write them here on the notion that if they have died for their country, the least we all should do is read them and perhaps even remember some of them. The names raise anger on two levels: because they died so young and for so useless a reason. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is another preposterous lie by the Bush government. Why not say the facts: "Iraqi Oil."
Our troops should instead be out there enforcing a New York custom that we have lived by for generations. The patrol guide for the police department of the city of New York has the code 1013: "Officer needs assistance." When this call goes out, the police of the city stop. There ensues a large rush to a hospital to give blood and a sprawling, frantic search for the person or persons who killed a cop.
We have 23 dead police from the World Trade Center bombing. There is no code 1013. The actual killers are dead, including 15 Saudi Arabians. But the master of the attack is loose. He is Osama bin Laden and he lives on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Why haven't we caught bin Laden, the cop killer?
Why haven't we followed the New York tradition and put all the men we need, tens of thousands, tens of thousands more if needed, and nobody stops until bin Laden, the cop killer, is caught.
George Bush stood in the World Trade Center ruins and said he would get bin Laden as a sheriff would -- smoke him out, shoot him cold dead. All the poor cops cheered. What a thrill to have a good tough guy as president! That was over two years ago. Now you never hear bin Laden mentioned.
And the cops who have lost their own do nothing. They are the most extraordinarily gullible of people. They support with all fervor the idea of our president sending troops to Iraq and not where they could capture bin Laden. The cops say nothing about their dead. They are afraid to demand that their government honor the tradition of code 1013 and catch this common cop killer. If they yelled with the emotion they use when pushing around a peace demonstration, their prep-school hero, Bush, would quiver, and I say he'd make bin Laden the goal again.
Bin Laden has killed cops and now we have to listen to tapes of him threatening to attack us again? Why do we put up with this? And why we are left with these young dead, lost while in the wrong place, and whose names we might try to memorize:
Army Spc. James E. Powell, 26, B Company, lst Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Radliff, Kentucky. Killed October 12th in Baji, Iraq, when his vehicle struck an enemy anti-tank mine.
Army Pfc. Stephen E. Wyatt, 19, C Battery, lst Battalion, 173rd Field Artillery Regiment. Kilgore, Texas. Killed October 13th in Baladad when an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire struck his convoy.
Army Spc. Douglas J. Wheeler, 22, A Company, lst Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. Concord, Michigan. Killed October 13th in Tikrit when his unit came under attack from a rocket-propelled grenade while searching for a possible improvised explosive device.
Army Spc. Douglas J. Weismantle, 28, lst Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Killed October 13th in Baghdad when an Iraqi dump truck swerved and rolled over on top of his military vehicle.
Army Pvt. Benjamin L. Freeman, 19, K Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Valdosta, Georgia. Drowned near Al Asad, Iraq, on October 13th.
Army Pfc. Jose Casanova, 23, lst Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne. El Monte, California. Died October 13th in Baghdad when an Iraqi dump truck swerved and rolled over on top of his military vehicle.
Army Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, 43, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Nashville, Tennessee. Army Cpl. Sean R. Grilley, 24, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Airborne. San Bernardino, California. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph P. Bellevia, 28, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Airborne. Wakefield, Massachusetts. All three killed October 16th while attempting to negotiate with armed men near a mosque after curfew. The Iraqis opened fire.
Army Spc. Michael L. Williams, 46, 105th Military Police Company, Army National Guard. Buffalo, New York. Killed October 17th near Baghdad when his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device.
Army Pfc. John Hart, 20, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Battalion, 173rd Infantry Brigade. Bedford, Massachusetts. One of two soldiers who died in a guerrilla attack October 18th in a clash outside Kirkuk.
One soldier from the Army's 377 Theater Support Group was killed October 21st in a maintenance accident north of Baghdad. (Name unavailable at this writing.)
Jimmy Breslin writes for Newsday, where this column first appeared.