A story on NPR triggers some thoughts about U.S. activities in Iraq.
I was listening to NPR (National Pubilc Radio) today when they played a segment about whether people thought the general public should be sacrificing more during the war in Iraq. The topic, and the responses the reporter got from members of the public, really bugged me.
First of all, I thought the war in Iraq was over. Didn’t George W come on national television over a year ago and tell us that the war was over and we won? I’m still trying to figure out what our people are still doing over there (other than dying, getting their heads messed up, or embarrassing the rest of us by treating prisoners badly).
Second was the topic itself. The NPR reporter was apparently trying to draw some kind of comparison between our activities in Iraq and our participation in other wars, like World War II.
During WWII, the American public made many obvious sacrifices, such as the rationing of fuel and other commodities, required blackouts, and the participation of women in the workplace. This was required and, to my knowledge, accepted without much question. We were fighting for our freedom, striking back at an enemy that had struck us first (in the case of Japan), ensuring our own future. Many, many Americans died in that war, but they died to keep America free.
Our activities in Iraq are completely different. It is now commonly accepted that the excuse we used to attack Iraq was invalid — there were no weapons of mass destruction and our government probably knew it. Sure, we took a brutal tyrant down, and that has to be good for the people he oppressed. And yeah, terrorists probably took refuge in Iraq, where they planned attacks on us and our allies. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I believe our war in Iraq was a ploy by George W to get our minds off more serious problems at home: the economy, health care, and energy. It saddens me that 1,700 Americans (so far) had to lose their lives — and many others had to sustain serious injuries — just so the flag wavers could brag about how powerful we are.
The problem this past week was that opinion polls showed that George W is losing support for our activities in Iraq. More than half the U.S. population thinks we should get out of Iraq and some people who once thought it was a good idea to go there in the first place now think it was a mistake (duh). George W loaded up his fire extinguisher and tried to put out these fires with a speech at a military base. He wound up pissing off a lot of people with brains, people who took offense to his mention (seven times) of 9/11.
Hello? George? 9/11 has nothing to do with Iraq.
Which brings me back to the original topic of this entry: sacrifices. The NPR reporter’s take was that the average American doesn’t really think much about the war in Iraq because he/she isn’t making any sacrifices. So she went to the WWII Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans monuments in Washington D.C. and interviewed a few tourists. The comments were diverse and indicated to me how Americans are completely missing the point.
For example, one high school student said that there are kids at her school who cut class as an antiwar protest. But she says they really cut class because they don’t want to go to class. (I don’t know what this has to do with sacrifices. Maybe it’s just an indication on the inability of young people to answer a simple question.)
Another man, who’d fought in Korea (I think), said that Americans don’t need to make sacrifices for the war. The servicemen and women are doing their jobs so we don’t have to sacrifice anything.
A couple said that they sacrifice by spending a little more time in prayer, praying for our soldiers and the Iraqi people.
Another woman used up a bit of airtime by reminiscing about ration coupons during WWII.
None of these people, of course, actually knew anyone who was currently in Iraq.
Then came a bunch of women from Mississippi. They had sons or cousins or brothers or nephews overseas in Iraq. One mother, who was obviously at the verge of tears as she spoke, said we need to send letters to soldiers. Her son says that at mail call, the people who don’t get letters have really disappointed faces. Listening to her voice, always on the verge of breaking down, brought tears to my eyes. This woman could lose her son as so many other mothers already have. For what?
Of course, the thing that the NPR reporter and the people she interviewed are all missing is that the American people are making sacrifices. We’re making sacrifices every day.
Do you know how much this war is costing us? I don’t know an exact number (not having access to the Internet to look it up), but I know it’s a very big number. Billions of dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pour some of that money into health care? Renewable energy research? Education? The arts?
Can you imagine the kinds of things we’re missing out on because so many of our tax dollars are being used to pay for a war that isn’t doing us any good?
Why doesn’t the NPR reporter see this? Why didn’t any of the people she spoke to see this?
And what happens when the money runs out? Does the government simply go further into debt, thus ensuring that the next few generations of Americans will continue to pay for this war? Or will the government simply raise taxes, in the name of freedom and democracy, expecting us to tighten our belts and do without?
And what of the Americans who have died? Haven’t their families — wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters — made some sacrifices? Or the men and women who return with serious physical or psychological problems? Haven’t they made some sacrifices?
Am I the only one seeing this?