A Fearful Price

 

By BOB HERBERT, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times, December 8, 2009

Excerpt

…The idea that fewer than 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are being called on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we’re send­ing them into com­bat again and again and again — for three tours, four tours, five tours, six tours — is obscene. All decent peo­ple should object…the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Amer­i­cans have no desire at all to share in the sac­ri­fices that the ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies are mak­ing. Most Amer­i­cans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their pre­cious time to do vol­un­teer work that would aid the nation’s war­riors and their fam­i­lies, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars…The rea­son it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to con­tinue fight­ing year after year after year, is because so few Amer­i­cans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II com­bined. If vot­ers had to choose right now between insti­tut­ing a draft or exit­ing Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two coun­tries in a heartbeat…Here’s George Washington’s view, for exam­ple: “It must be laid down as a pri­mary posi­tion and the basis of our sys­tem, that every cit­i­zen who enjoys the pro­tec­tion of a free gov­ern­ment owes not only a pro­por­tion of his prop­erty, but even his per­sonal ser­vice to the defense of it.”

 

Full text

I spoke recently with a student at Columbia who was enthusiastic about the escalation of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He argued that a full-blown counterinsurgency effort, which would likely take many years and cost many lives, was the only way to truly win the war.

He was a very bright young man: thoughtful and eager and polite. I asked him if he had any plans to join the military and help make this grand mission a success. He said no.

There was an article in The Times on Monday about a new study showing that the eight years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan were taking an emotional toll on the children of service members and that the difficulties increased the longer parents were deployed.

There is no way that the findings of this study should be a surprise to anyone. It just confirms that the children of those being sent into combat are among that tiny percentage of the population that is unfairly shouldering the entire burden of these wars.

The idea that fewer than 1 percent of Americans are being called on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we’re sending them into combat again and again and again — for three tours, four tours, five tours, six tours — is obscene. All decent people should object.

We already knew that in addition to the many thousands who have been killed or physically wounded, hundreds of thousands have returned with very serious psychological wounds: deep depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and so on. Other problems are also widespread: alcohol and drug abuse, family strife, homelessness.

The new study, by the RAND Corporation, was published in the journal Pediatrics. The children surveyed were found to have higher levels of emotional difficulties than their peers in the general population.

According to the study:

“Older youth and girls of all ages reported significantly more school, family and peer-related difficulties with parental deployment. Length of parental deployment and poorer non-deployed caregiver mental health were significantly associated with a greater number of challenges for children, both during deployment and deployed parent reintegration.”

The air is filled with obsessive self-satisfied rhetoric about supporting the troops, giving them everything they need and not letting them down. But that rhetoric is as hollow as a jazzman’s drum because the overwhelming majority of Americans have no desire at all to share in the sacrifices that the service members and their families are making. Most Americans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their precious time to do volunteer work that would aid the nation’s warriors and their families, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars.

To say that this is a national disgrace is to wallow in the shallowest understatement. The nation will always give lip-service to support for the troops, but for the most part Americans do not really care about the men and women we so blithely ship off to war, and the families they leave behind.

The National Military Family Association, which commissioned the RAND study, has poignant comments from the children of military personnel on its Web site.

You can tell immediately how much more real the wars are to those youngsters than to most Americans:

“I hope it’s not him on the news getting hurt.”

“Most of my grades dropped because I was thinking about my dad, because my dad’s more important than school.”

“Mom will be in her room and we hear her crying.”

The reason it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to continue fighting year after year after year, is because so few Americans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II combined. If voters had to choose right now between instituting a draft or exiting Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two countries in a heartbeat.

I don’t think our current way of waging war, which is pretty easy-breezy for most citizens, is what the architects of America had in mind. Here’s George Washington’s view, for example: “It must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.”

What we are doing is indefensible and will ultimately exact a fearful price, and there will be absolutely no way for the U.S. to avoid paying it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/opinion/08herbert.html?_r=0

Ten years of questions, outrage, tragedy, grief and change – The Iraq War

ProgressiveValues.org e-letter by Phyllis Stenerson, February 15, 2013

Ten years ago today – February 15 – millions of people around the globe took to the streets to protest the planned invasion of Iraq. With an estimated six to ten million people participating, it is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history.

The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003. The world was forever changed in countless ways. We embarked upon a new chapter in America’s story that is still unfolding.

For many of us, this event launched a new chapter in our own personal stories. I was flabbergasted and outraged, sending me on a mission to figure out why and how this disastrous decision could have been made by my government. It has grown into wisdom for the future.

Now, ten years later, I have insights but questions remain and I expect new information will continue to be revealed. To manage the voluminous data, I developed a framework so material could be sorted into categories. Highlights are posted for public review on my website www.ProgressiveValues.org. Much of the information has been found on excellent sources on the internet demonstrating the essential role of new media and the progressive movement in saving and revitalizing our democracy. I think of this as having a conversation with many diverse voices.

Pulling this together into a cohesive narrative is a work-in-progress. The story of America’s preemptive war on Iraq – and the aftermath – connects with virtually every facet of American history, government and culture. My focus is on contrasting worldviews, how values affect and are affected by American policy, with an emphasis on the intersection of politics and religion/spirituality. It’s absolutely fascinating. Implications for the future are critically important. Optimism for the future is based on the fact that we’re becoming increasingly knowledgeable and there are a lot of very smart people deeply concerned and engaged.

The website is a start and I now want to collaborate with an established non-profit organization. If you know of any potential connections, please contact me. I want to hear about related work being done by others.
Phyllis Stenerson – phyllis@progressivevalues.org

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Hubris: Selling the Iraq War hosted by Rachel Maddow
premieres February 18 at 9pm ET on MSNBC.

The tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War is March 20.  Even after all this time there are important questions unanswered about how and why this government decision was made. The new documentary called Hubris: Selling the Iraq War is based on the book Hubris, co-written by NBC News National Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and MSNBC contributor and Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn

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“Our movement changed history. While we did not prevent the Iraq war, the protests proved its clear illegality, demonstrated the isolation of the Bush administration policies, helped prevent war in Iran, and inspired a generation of activists.”  Phyllis Bennis, The Day the World  Said No To War , CommonDreams.org

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Today the real test of power is not the capacity to make war but the capacity to prevent it. Anne O’Hare McCormick

Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them, must share the guilt for the dead. General Omar Bradley

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

Either war is obsolete or people are. R. Buckminster Fuller

I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it. Dwight D. Eisenhower

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. Eleanor Roosevelt

http://p0.vresp.com/bQJcTZ