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Yes, Marcus. They did die in vain.

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"We spend our whole lives training to defend this country, and then we were sent over there by this country, and you're telling me because we were over there doing what we were told by our country that it was senseless and my guys died for nothing?"

That was how former Navy SEAL and Lone Survivor author MarcusLuttrell responded to CNN's Jake Tapper during an interview about the new movie based on his book, about an ill-fated mission in Afghanistan in which 19 of his fellow Navy SEALs were killed by enemy forces. There has been much furor in the national press over the exchange since it aired. The majority of commentators have rallied to Luttrell's side, affirming that his comrades did not die in vain. Their arguments focus on honoring the fallen, their dedication to their country and their courage in combat. But we confuse valor with vanity at great peril to the living and the future of our wars. We need a more honest answer, however painful it may be to hear.

Yes, Marcus. Your friends died in vain. They went selflessly. They fought bravely. They sacrificed nobly. They lived in the best traditions of duty, honor, and country -- hallowed words which dictate what every American can and ought to be. But they died in vain for the exact reason that they went where their country sent them and did what their country told them to do. America failed you because it failed its obligation to those principles. It gives me no pleasure to write these words, because it applies as much to the friends I lost as it does to yours. But it needs to be said, because the sooner we acknowledge it as a country, the more lives we might save.

Throughout history, our nation's greatest leaders have understood on a deeply personal level that however honorably a soldier acquits himself, he can die in vain, and that it is the responsibility of the leaders and citizenry to see to it that they don't. Our country has lost its sense of that responsibility to a horrifying extent. Our generals have lost the capability to succeed and the integrity to admit failure. Our society has lost the courage and energy to hold them accountable. Over the last decade, our top leaders have wasted the lives of our sons, daughters, and comrades with their incompetence and hubris. After each failure, our citizens have failed to hold them accountable, instead underwriting new failed strategies as quickly as their predecessors with our apathy and sense of detachment. And then we use the tired paeans of "never forget" and "honor the fallen" to distract ourselves from our guilt in the affair. When we blithely declare that they did not die in vain, we deface their honor by using it to wipe the blood from our hands.

We have lost our collective ability to win a war as well as the strength of character to accept defeat. And in the end, it is those who represent the epitome of that character we lack that pay the price. Can there be a death any more in vain than one that secures for us freedoms that we hold in such low regard as to not even use them on behalf of those that protect us? If there is, I cannot think of one.

It is my greatest hope that Luttrell's response opens a national dialogue on this subject, and that people finally embrace the true, terrible nature of our self-inflicted losses. Let us as a nation finally feel the guilt we ought to for failing our civic duty. And let that be what we remember before we send the next servicemember to battle. For surely, there will be a next war. When it comes, let us be a nation of people who are as faithful to our principles and considerate of our obligations as those who fight for us. Let us be worthy of their sacrifice. That is the only way to prevent them from dying in vain.

I feel like a majority of Americans believe that the military industrial complex is bad, but that there is nothing we can do about it, because the machine does a really good job of protecting its own interests.

What phrase did you use? "Deep Complex". The machine seems indestructible.

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