Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (11/17/05)


Shame on us. We Americans live in two worlds. Here at home, we are only dimly aware there's a war going on. Yet half a world away, more than two thousand American servicemen and service women have given their lives and tens of thousands more have been maimed. We are relentlessly sacrificing the flower of our youth in an undeclared war with vague goals, no exit strategy and no way to define victory.

And what sacrifices have we here at home been asked to make? Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Contrast this with the home front during the Second World War. Then we were well aware a war was going on. Food, clothing, shoes, gasoline and tires were rationed. Scrap metal was collected diligently; even an empty toothpaste tube had to be turned in when buying another. Victory gardens sprouted in vacant city lots and suburban backyards to augment the food supply.

A family with sons or daughters in service had a small banner in a window with one or more blue stars on it. The dreaded telegram from the War Department announcing the death of a loved one turned a blue star to gold.

War bonds financed the war effort. Taxes were hiked and made more immediately available by a new gimmick: withholding. People learned to make do with less--but these were small sacrifices compared to what was being given up by our fighting men and women. A spirit of purpose was abroad in the land.

Today, apathy reigns at home, and we immerse ourselves in shopping or sports spectacles during which we observe the obligatory moment of silence for the fallen. Then it is back to the game. Our knowledge of the blood and dirt of battle comes from the special effects created for war movies and violent computer games.

How did we manage to create such an enormous disconnect between the home front and the troops? It began in January of 1973 when Congress abandoned national service, also called "the draft." This reaction to the imbalance of sacrifice imposed by the unpopular Vietnam War effectively changed the American armed forces.

What in past wars had been a succession of vast armies of hastily trained citizen-soldiers responding to an emergency became a small all-volunteer force ready to strike on a moment's notice. The active military now has become a class apart, not unlike the priesthood. For most Americans today, military service is something the children of other people do.

Few of us know how hazardous it is to fight a stealthy enemy with too-few troops using the tools and tactics of conventional warfare, and with equipment unsuited for guerrilla warfare. Thirty months after "Mission Accomplished" our troops still making do with Humvees not intended for such warfare; even an armored Humvee cannot withstand a roadside bomb. And the wheeled landing craft the Marines are using in Iraq are intended for landing on beaches, not cruising hazardous desert roads.

And how do we honor their lonely deaths? We put magnetic yellow ribbons on our automobiles or attach flags to their antennas, and quickly return to complaining about the hardships imposed by the high price of gasoline.

We said nothing when a supine Congress failed to insist on its constitutional prerogative to declare war and surrendered war-making power to the President. Is it any wonder that Congress today is held in such low esteem?

The rush to war was predicated on the imminent danger of attack by Iraq. When no weapons of mass destruction were found there, our government hastily concocted a new purpose for the war: to turn that unruly tribalized country into a democracy. Running for office, George W. Bush blasted nation-building and vowed never to allow our military to become entangled in the process. Now we are up to our elbows in it.

"Stay the course," we are told. What course? The Administration seems to be making it up as they go along, hoping by guess and by God that everything will come out right in the end. Although we pay lip service to democracy, when the time comes to demonstrate to the world our devotion to the system, a majority of the American voting population fails to show up at the polls.
We allowed the hunt for bin Laden and the terrorists responsible for 9/11 to be derailed and converted to an interminable war that has made Iraq a vast training ground for a host of al-Qaida acolytes. We have destroyed cities and killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Our response to Iraqis unhappy with our actions as occupiers is to characterize them as ingrates. And we wonder why we are reviled throughout the Muslim world.

Our access to factual information has been arbitrarily curtailed. When our forces accidentally kill one of our own in the heat of battle, as happened to football star Pat Tillman, our government creates a phony story of the circumstances of his death "to shield his family." Officials shamefully tried to conceal the truth for almost five weeks--truth it knew from the moment the first battle reports were collected.

In a replay of Vietnam, the Administration gives us rosy predictions that never materialize, body counts and distorted news. A favorite line is that the insurgency is limited to only four of Iraq's eighteen provinces. What they do not tell us is that these four provinces contain more than half the population of Iraq. Anyone who legitimately questions the wisdom of this pointless, ill-advised war--even a parent who has lost a son or daughter--is branded as unpatriotic and disloyal.

We have a President who prides himself on not reading newspapers, rendering him unaware of the rising groundswell of opposition to his policies. Our chief executive lives in a cocoon insulated from the world by sycophantic advisors. His administration is rife with croneyism more blatant than the infamous Harding administration in the 1920s. His favorite venue for speechifying is a military base where service members can be counted on not to raise embarrassing questions.

We complacently allowed all this to happen in our name. Shame on us.

Lest we forget. In 1979, 133 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against making Martin Luther King Jr's birthday a national holiday. Nine of them are still in the House. Another one of them is the current Vice President.

Social insecurity. Here in the U.S., only six tenths of one percent of Social Security contributions goes toward administrative costs. In Britain's privatized system, that number is 30 percent.

The neighborhood's going downhill. An Iraqi is two and a half times more likely to die today than in the last year of the Saddam Hussein regime. The cause of death is 58 times more likely to be violence.

Better get your sea legs. An 80-year-old senior citizen could live out the rest of his or her days on a luxury cruise liner for $230,497. The average cost to do the same in an assisted-living facility would be $228,075.

Grim statistics. The U.S. is the world's top exporter of cigarettes. The chance that a tsunami will strike the U.S. Pacific Northwest in the next 30 years is 1 in 10. An average of 7,900 Americans are injured annually on amusement park rides each year.

Don't hold your breath. Only one state, province or territory in the U.S., Canada and Mexico lacks a McDonald's; the last holdout is the Canadian territory of Nunavut, north of Hudson Bay.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments: Post a Comment | Postscripts Homepage

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?