Mark Daily’s calling

The Los Angeles Times has more about Mark J. Daily, the remarkable 23-year-old US Army officer killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq last month.

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I recently posted about Ann Atwater, a black woman in North Carolina who befriended the Klan leader C.P. Ellis and helped persuade him to abandon his racist views. I wondered if anyone could offer similar stories.

It turns out Mark Daily did something like that.

He sought out neo-Nazis for online debates. In a string of e-mails, Daily invited one young man who featured swastikas on his MySpace page to explain his sentiments. After a wide-ranging discussion over German history, the Holocaust, African DNA, North Korean fascism and democratic values, Daily turned the Nazi lover around. “I think most certainly a lot, if not all of my beliefs have changed,” the young man wrote. Daily, he said, was right. “Nothing was ever created with a system of hate.”

The Times piece continues:

After the 9/11 attacks, Daily was not convinced that a military response was the best option. In his MySpace essay, he runs through the gamut of reasons he used at one time or another to argue against confronting the Taliban and Saddam Hussein: cultural tolerance, the sanctity of national sovereignty, a suspicion of America’s intentions. Weren’t we really after their oil? he wondered.

Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him. A 2003 phone conversation with a UCLA ROTC officer on the ideals of commitment and service impressed him.

Ultimately, his family says, Daily came to believe that his lifelong altruistic impulses and passions for the underdog had to extend to Iraqis crushed under decades of oppression. It was time to stop simply talking about human rights and actually do something to help secure them.

Mark Daily’s life and death leave me awed but infuriated. I’m infuriated by a government in Washington that has unforgivably botched the mission for which he gave his life. And I’m infuriated that Daily– a registered Democrat who considered himself a liberal humanist– has received more attention from the likes of rightwing Senator John Cornyn, rightwing blogger Michelle Malkin and rightwing talk show host Hugh Hewitt than he has from his fellow Democrats and liberal humanists.