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Commentary
Honor war dead by fighting for D.C.
(Published March 21, 2005)

By BILL MOSLEY

Spc. Darryl T. Dent, Army National Guard. Lance Cpl. Gregory E. MacDonald, Marine Forces Reserve. Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Few D.C. residents are familiar with these names, but as the war in Iraq enters its third year they should be. They are the citizens of the District who, as members of our armed services, have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Now, three D.C. deaths out of more than 1,500 Americans killed in the war may not sound like a lot. But these three fatalities represent, on a per-capita basis, a rate of combat deaths higher than the nation as a whole.

But more to the point, Darryl Dent, Gregory MacDonald and Kevin Shea, had they lived to see a free and democratic Iraq, would have returned to a hometown the capital of the Free World whose citizens are denied the voting representation and self-government for which our troops are fighting overseas. President Bush has been willing to risk the lives of young Americans as he touts the cause of democracy for a nation halfway around the world, but he has not lifted a finger to bring the same to U.S. citizens just beyond his own doorstep.

On Jan. 30, the Iraqi people conducted an election to select voting representatives to their country's national assembly a privilege for which citizens of the District are still struggling after more than 200 years. Like African-Americans who fought abroad in America's wars of the 20th century, D.C. residents are laying their lives on the line in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to bring freedom to those nations, only to return to second-class citizenship at home.

For two centuries, D.C. residents have fought and died in our nation's wars, often suffering among the highest casualty rates. In World War II, for example, D.C. members of the armed forces died in combat at double the rate of the nation as a whole. (And at that time we couldn't even vote for president!)

In addition to military service, D.C. residents unlike those of Puerto Rico, Guam and the other U.S. colonial enclaves bear the burden of war through our payment of federal income taxes, more on a per-capita basis than every state but Connecticut and Massachusetts. The war in Iraq also has cost each woman, man and child in the District an average of more than $1,200 since it began, as calculated by the National Priorities Project.

In short, citizens of the District pay the full price of citizenship but are denied its full benefits. For this reason, we carry the moral authority to not ask for, but to demand the rights that other Americans have.

So let's honor the memories of Darryl Dent, Gregory MacDonald and Kevin Shea by carrying on the fight for democracy for their families, friends and neighbors here in their hometown.

***

Bill Mosley is a member of the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C Coalition. Contact him at billmosley@starpower.net.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator