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June 24, 2008

What War?

Roy Meachum

Reasonable doubt exists that most readers do not know that a week ago 50 Shiite Iraqis died in a tremendous blast, engineered by al-Qaeda Sunnis. In the same forgotten category: Afghanistan's Taliban seized and held a series of towns and villages.


Frankly, my dear, who cares?


GOP presumptive candidate John McCain wants to revive interest in the fighting so he can boast his qualifications from Vietnam. Not many listen, any more than heard Washington nearly 40 years ago when several presidents proclaimed that the fate of democracy turned on Southeast Asia. The citizen majority was right.


Having written the simple truth does not mean those acts of courage, including Senator McCain's, should not be noted and honored. Those individual acts of courage go a long way in sustaining and strengthening the American ideal. The wasted cavalry charge of the doomed 600 proclaimed to the world the mettle of British men. Of course, they may not have been totally English. The tight isle's military history tended to gloss over the contributions made by hired colonial soldiers.


In that sense, it's possible to sanction last week's 50 fatalities, grown subsequently to more than 60. After all, the action consisted of Iraqis against Iraqis. What did they have to do with us? Even the loss of British, Polish and other troops can be brushed off – those countries knew what they were doing. Didn't they?


Much more likely they responded to Washington's call to arms for the sake of an old ally. After all, our boys liberated Europe during World War II. I resent that justification most of all. It sounds like Americans really had a choice. We did not! The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany and Italy declared war on the United States while Washington was still trying to affix the blame for Hawaii.


Despite brave talk and all those John Wayne movies, our history reveals this country avoids declarations against obvious enemies unless we possess a huge advantage. Mexico, Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada and Panama come to mind.


We are not a cowardly people, to say the least. But that's not the same as being war-lovers. Given no personal stake, we mostly mind our own business. That's what's happening in the Middle East.


As a number of us warned going in, the administration approached the Arabs as vastly inferior people; we treated them as little better than brute animals. I suspect that a majority of men and women on America's streets think Iraq and Afghanistan are well under control right now. They're not.


Both Sunni and Shiite factions decided they could only get themselves killed, their homes bombed, by standing up for Iraq independence. As it was, administration announcements about how Baghdad literally loved having our troops around, notwithstanding, all sides said they wanted us to go home, sometime. Even those who gained and maintain power on U.S. firepower know the will of their people is to end the occupation. That has much to do with Washington playing down wars in both countries.


Furthermore, the administration's decision not to reinstitute the draft was clever; it kept out that part of Main Street not involved with the National Guard. The citizen-soldiers are written off with the catch phrase: They asked for it. Enlisting, however, to support their country's needs is altogether different than being summoned to fight the White House's colonial wars.


Moreover, you would have to forget how the regular services routed the Taliban and declared Afghanistan settled and free; we were all told there would be no future trouble with the mountainous nation that buried English and Russian expeditionary armies. In my long years, I cannot recall any president who promised more and delivered less than George W. Bush.


The president and the even more bellicose Dick Cheney, his number two, directly profit from the war's downgrading to not worth the public's attention. Wonder how many folks still read the casualty reports? I do.


Comparing the youthful dead to the losses on Interstates makes me climb the wall. That's crude rationalization, and cruel. It's grossly insulting to the fallen heroes and their families. After all drinking too many beers and climbing behind a wheel cannot be compared to being placed in harm's way by ambitious and erratic politicians.


On this issue, I stand squarely behind the presumptive Republican candidate; the more former Navy pilot John McCain insists on emphasizing the war the quicker voters might realize Iraq and Afghanistan are killing fields for young Americans, women and men.


The greatest single act of President Gerald Ford was to cut through all the self-justifying rhetoric, especially from the military and order everyone home from Saigon.


Enough already! Basta! Genug! Kefiyyah! Suffit!


In any language more than enough local citizens and allied troops have paid the ultimate price for this totally meaningless adventure.


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