Friday, May 16, 2008

What Did You Sacrifice in the War, Daddy?

I guess today's post falls under the category of geo-political rant. I remember the tales my grandparents told me about living during the World Wars (both of them!). My grandfather was never in the military, but he spent part of World War I working in a shipyard. My uncle served in the Navy in World War II, and the family did what they had to do to aid the war effort: I still have a few of the ration tickets they had at the end of the war. Ration tickets! There were severe limits to how much gasoline, meat, sugar, and other necessities a family could consume each month to make sure the troops had enough to wage the war. The entire country sacrificed, willingly or not, because the alternative was frightening: we probably never would have been invaded, but we would have been isolated in a world dominated by Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in Asia. Nearly a half million Americans would die, so that few families were left untouched by the pain of losing a family member to the conflict.

Fast forward to the present day conflict in Iraq (and I fear, if the idiots in the White House have their way, Iran). A war being fought by "volunteers", for a longer duration than World War II. So many families have been financially and emotionally trapped by having a family member in the reserves, which have not been called up in decades, except for Iraq-related incidents. Soldiers being recalled to duty in Iraq, three and four times over. More than 4,000 Americans dead, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. A horrific number of war wounded and maimed, and an incalculable future of post-traumatic stress syndrome that will affect our vets for decades.

Our soldiers are serving their country admiralbly and honorably, but it seems that they are the only people who are sacrificing any part of their lives and resources. What have we been asked to do? Buy more! Show the terrorists that we consumers can continue to spend and borrow so we can have more things! Put a "support our troops" bumper sticker on our SUV's. What else? Oh yes, we can be disturbed by the images of war that we see on tv. And then turn the channel. We aren't even paying for this war. We are paying for it by credit card; our grandchildren will foot the bill for us.

Did I say geo-political rant? Oh, yes. Why are we there? Would this war be happening if there weren't billions of barrels of petroleum under the sands of Iraq? Yeah, I know all those other justifications for being there: Sadaam was not a very nice person, he had weapons of mass destruction, etc., but the numbers are stark: Saudia Arabia, around 250 billion barrels, Iraq, around 105 billion barrels, Kuwait, around 95 billion barrels, Iran about 90 billion barrels. We use about 5-6 billion barrels a year in the United States. We have about 30 billion barrels in the ground. That's it.

And what have we done in the last 30 years since the last gas crisis? Essentially nothing, and even worse, our vehicles have grown larger, consuming ever more fuel to get us around town for our absolutely essential errands. Detroit and Congress and the President can barely agree to slight increase mileage standards in the next ten or fifteen years.

Am I angry? I guess it sounds that way. I have been keeping a count of the war dead on my office door ever since the 700th soldier died. Someone, or more than one "patriot" has continued to tear down my tally month after month, somehow irritated that we should keep in mind the sacrifice being made by our heroes in the military. I have been at it for so long, I have become numb to the numbers. They almost lost meaning to me, until this week.

The idiot who occupies the White House revealed what he has sacrificed in the war effort. He gave up golf in 2003! He thought it would send the wrong message to be smacking a little white ball while good people were dying. What does he say to the fact that he has spent more time on vacation than any other president?

I fervently hope that you will vote for people who will extricate us from this futile war. I hope you will vote for people who will design an energy plan that plans for a future beyond the two years or four years to the next election. I hope you will vote for someone who can truly call on us and inspire us to sacrifice something of our lives so that there will be something for the children who come after us. Work now to make your own life a commitment to a greener future.

And the next time a politician, or a columnist, or a talking head on television tries to justify a war, make sure that they have their children on the front lines of the conflict. Because that can be the only measure of sacrifice that can justify taking sons and daughters away from someone else.
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