Sunday, February 10, 2008

Whatever Happened to the War?

Last week, according to the Pew Research Center, national news media provided 2% of their coverage on the wars. They spent twice as much coverage on Heath Ledger, five times as much on the stimulus plan, and 20 times as much on the 2008 campaign.
When asked what they had heard about in the news lately, readers responded with Obama – 24%, Clinton – 23%, Ledger – 11%, Britney Spears – 6% and on down to Mitt Romney 3%. They did NOT MENTION THE IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN WARS!
Even when asked what they might be interested in reading or hearing about, only 6% mentioned the war.
No one anywhere mentioned the corollaries of war – the effect on veterans and their families, the provision of benefits and services, the reconstitution of the vastly depleted forces, both federal and state.
I spend hours daily reviewing news stories from all over the nation. It is getting harder and harder to find substantive news stories on the war or veterans. There are more stories on naming parks and post offices for dead veterans than there are on failing hospitals and programs for live veterans.
In Congress there are more unfunded provisions for veterans than there are funded ones, and there is much more opened-and-died-in-committee legislation than there is legislation with any substantial benefit for today’s veterans commensurate with their sacrifice.
So whatever happened to the war?
Let’s start with the first war – Afghanistan.
THEY’RE BAAAACK!! The Taliban is back in force. They control many areas in the south and along the Pakistan border. They are increasingly infiltrating the cities with suicide bombers and paramilitary fighters. A suicide bomber killed the deputy governor of Helmand province last week.
They have engaged in set-piece battles with NATO forces, particularly in the south. NATO casualties are rising, as are Afghani casualties, military and civilian. The condition of women is returning rapidly to the situation under the old Taliban, and female school teachers and women running businesses are increasingly being targeted for terrorist assaults and assassinations.
The only progress seems to be that opium is once again a bumper crop, and Mullah Mohammed, bowing to international pressure, has told his forces to stop beheading the people they terrorize and shoot them or hang them instead. - That’s it after almost six years?
Then of course there is Iraq.
The surge has worked – in Baghdad at least. The killings are down – not done, but down. They may be coming back up.
We are arming the Iraqi forces with modern American weapons, although we know that those forces are infiltrated by the militias.
We are bribing the Sunni leadership to do what they already know they must do and would probably have done without our money, and that is get rid of the Al Qaida-in-Iraq thugs.
In the Shia area the state of women has reverted not just to pre-Saddam conditions, but to pre-20th century conditions.
The Maliki government is effectively forming our foreign policy in the region in that they refuse to do anything that we want them to do that might upset either the Shia mullahs or their Iranian neighbors. While we are paying the Sunni tribal leaders to supports us, and they are so far, Maliki is denying them even proportional parity in government.
There are disturbing reports that violence is increasing in the unattended countryside. The southern area around Basra is falling apart after the pull-back of the British forces. American casualties almost doubled in January over December.
Then there is the war as it is waged right here in the US of A
Given that half of America doesn’t even seem to care to participate, even to give the war a thought from day to day, the remaining half are waging a war here at home over what it means to be patriotic, what the Constitution says about war and the powers of government, what the United States’ obligations are under international treaties, how we should conduct ourselves in the world, and what we owe those who stand up and sign up.
“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.“
Adlai Stevenson
The divide seems to be between those who believe that the Constitution requires that in order to protect our freedoms we must not give them away willy-nilly, and those who believe that the Constitution is unclear, and who are afraid and are willing to sacrifice freedoms for a sense of security – real or not.
These are troublesome differences, because they speak to two completely different nations. One proudly free and democratic, and one willing to define something less than the historical concept of freedom and democracy as a new “freedom”.
"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
—General Douglas MacArthur
The cliché, “Freedom is not Free” is batted about with obviously varying meaning. To some that means “Freedom is not Free so please send your kid to fight wherever the CINC says to go.”
We seem to forget that the original meaning was, “Freedom is not Free so all of you step up – all of you do your share – all of you sacrifice – all of you accept that you will always live under some insecurity.” Why? Because it is truly worth it.
And don’t forget that also means that “Freedom is not Free because we owe those who defend us daily everything that a grateful nation can offer.” This does not mean collecting an additional $1.2B from Tricare recipients, while giving away $150B, mostly to banks who gambled and lost, and to people who can’t control their spending.
We must pay a price for freedom, but we must not pay the price of real freedom to gain false freedom. Breaking down the protections and the checks and balances provisions of our Constitution are not worth it.
A unitary executive, not beholden to the peoples’ representatives, is what our fathers fought against two centuries ago. Representatives who represent themselves rather than us are likewise not the legislative construct for which our fathers risked their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.” A judiciary that can set aside not only the clear precepts of the Constitution, but also can ignore two centuries of precedent would be anathema to those who gave us the precious gift called America.
We will prevail
We will come through this trying time, because we have proven again and again that we are strong enough to do so – that the structure of our nation as given us by our fathers is tough and resilient. To do that we will have to stop fighting each other and start writing the next chapter of our blessedly free world.
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
Thomas Jefferson

Sandy Cook
10 Feb 2008

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