Mrs. Geek asked an interesting question on Monday afternoon, as we saw Memorial Day services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on C-SPAN: "Has the Dubya ever attended any of the funerals at Arlington for soldiers who died in Iraq or Afghanistan?" I thought about that for a second, and said "no". The reason I gave for this answer was that the current Administration seems to be all about the patriotic symbolism of war, but awfully short on responsibility.
One need only to look at who is actually fighting and dying in the war to see how this is true. Who gets the most dangerous work in Iraq? I'm told that it is members of the Army Reserve, many of them over for their second straight tour (because the government won't let them leave).
These Reservists are stuck doing support work, such as moving supplies. This is nominally supposed to be "safe" work, but isn't because the civilian government in Washington will not take the advice of its own generals and increase the size of the troop deployment in Iraq. That same civilian government also did not heed the advice of internationalists in the State Department and pay the Iraqi Army and keep it together as a tool to enforce discipline. No, Reservists get to convoy supplies through hostile territory, sometimes full of ex-Army guerillas who like to blow up their trucks.
Of course, the same civilian government is going to make sure that the return of the Reservists is not going to be welcome, either. The government is currently running up a massive debt because a blind adherence to the doctrine of tax cuts is reducing its income stream (the income of the government is currently at 17% of the Gross Domestic Product [GDP]; this same figure was 20% during the Reagan-Bush years.) This is certainly not going to leave much wiggle room to increase the benefits that veterans I am sure will demand in the coming years. At the same time, the government is re-writing bankruptcy laws with no exceptions for Reservists called to duty. So, sorry Charlie... you'll have to pay all your creditors at interest when that aluminum siding business you started goes belly up because you've been in Afghanistan for two years.
Why is this so? Our government only wants to be "At War" come election time. Our country is to be "business as usual" the rest of the time. Pictures of caskets coming home from the Middle East are not to be released to the public. Coverage of American fatalities in the Middle East and abuse at Guantanamo Bay are actively discouraged. There will be no draft. There will be no rationing, or restructuring of the economy. There will be no changes to the basic ratios of the budget or the elimination of tax cuts. There will only be talk of "honor" and "duty" on the campaign trail, not on the floor of Congress or substatively with the Press.
I think this is disgraceful. A war is being run as much to prop up a political agenda is it is to defeat the enemies of our interests. If our politicians are to declare war, let them stare the consequences of their choices in the face. Let there be a draft -- one where everyone aged 18-26 who graduated in the top 75% of their high school class or attended college is eligible by lottery. Let there be gasoline rationing for SUVs, and an end to tax cuts for the wealthiest 20% of Americans. Let Jenna Bush join the military and send her to Iraq.
We need to support our troops... and not just with campaign platitudes and prayers.
on 2005-06-01 at 12:20 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond