Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Bewilderment

With nearly 3,500 U.S. troops dead and more than 26,000 servicemen wounded, not to mention the more than 100,000 Iraqis killed, this was a poignant Memorial Day for me. I remember attending a lecture at LSU in the spring of 2001, and the lecturer listed all the reasons why Iraq was not capable of an attack on the U.S., and the reasons why a preemptive strike would be the wrong thing to do.

Five years later, those words echo as we've dug ourselves into a quagmire that has destroyed our reputation around the world, made our country exponentially more unsafe, and created a haven for Islamic extremists (in Iraq). It's tough to ignore the parallels to the Vietnam War that also began under the pretense of promoting democracy abroad, and ended in a senseless waste of money and human life.

Each evening, at the end of The News Hour on PBS, the program airs photos of soldiers recently killed in Iraq. Below the photo is the soldier's age and hometown. I'm not sure what saddens me most, seeing the 18 and 19-year-olds fresh out of high school, or the 35-year-olds who probably have three young kids at home waiting for their return. I think everyone who supported this disaster should sit through this photo roll each evening.

Watching this episode unfurl during the past five years has been at times unbelievable, and other times amazingly ironic. In a Christian society that each election cycle debates the value of human life with regard to abortion, we're so easily led into battle and are so quiet in the face of this enormous loss of human life. Equally ironic was tonight's report on The News Hour about proposed cuts to the SCHIP program that provides health insurance to America's least privileged children. Apparently we can't find the money to insure the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, yet we supported a war that at this point has cost each American family $20,000.

This site compares the cost of the Iraq War to what we could do in healthcare and education with the same amount of money.

Initial White House cost estimates were $50 to $60 billion dollars. Some economists have now predicted that this war will end up costing $1 trillion.

I can try to find the bright spot in all of this and say that we'll learn from our mistakes and a transgression of this magnitude won't happen again. But there isn't a bright spot. As we've seen over and over again throughout history, nationalism and colonialist tendencies are no match for our feigned concern for human life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While all of your statistics are accurate, I look at things from the other side of this coin. I am in regular contact with soldiers who are on the ground in Iraq, and they see and tell me of the good things that are happening there. The media doesn't always give us all of the facts. In fact the media is causing more problems than any terrorist right now because they choose to tell half truths and partial stories, instead of keeping us informed. I understand that there a problems here at home and that by paying for the war, we may be neglecting some things, however, nothing will get done in the partisan politics of late anyway, I believe keeping us safe from terrorists is a much higher priority right now, I also understand that some don't believe that Iraq was a threat, but I don't believe that either. I do believe that we are safer now than we were when Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq. I guess that is where we differ, because I believe that we were right to go into Iraq based on conversations with the soldiers I adopt and based on my belief that tyrants, like Saddam, are dangerous and a threat to our safety in this country. My great fear is that the next president will not see the value of what is being done there and will pull out too soon leaving it a breeding ground for more terrorists. I grieve for the thousands dead, but to compare the Iraq war to Vietnam is a bit misleading, for one thing we lost many many more young people in Vietnam than we've lost in the Iraq war. I challenge you to ask returning soldiers, or the families of the fallen (Cindy Sheehan not included) if they think that they fought or that their loved one died in vain and get their reactions. I don't think you've experienced real pain until it hits you personally, by having someone you've befriended, a family member, or a significant other killed over there, then you begin to understand. I have felt that loss, one of the soldiers I write to was killed in action and a very dear friend lost her son there, a kid I watched grow up. Tell those folks killed on 9/11 or their loved ones that the fight to keep terrorism at bay isn't worth it. What was the crime the folks in the WTC committed? I think that we can only expect more such attacks on our homeland if we let go of Iraq now. I do, however, agree with you in one aspect this war may be like Vietnam, but not in a manner in which you were referring to, this war is like Vietnam in the way that some react to our soldiers coming home and toward the war itself. I have included a direct quote from an email one of the soldiers I write to sent, I know it won't change your mind, but think about it. "All is well here in Baghdad. The surge is working, we may not actually
"win" here in the sense of a certain democratic Iraq, but we will have
taken the terrorist organizations to task and put them away where it
will be a while before they can mount another attack on US soil."
Love ya,
"Aunt" D