Yesterday Rivers asked, "You Call This Support?" (or here on Common Dreams).
This week, The Denver Post has run a front-page series profiling soldiers returning from Iraq. Their stories were sad and powerful, and they illustrate the varied backgrounds and experiences of our troops.Read the column here.
The series puts a human face on the suffering caused by the war and reveals just how small a stake most of us have in the Iraqi conflict. We're not being asked to pay a special war tax. We don't have to ration anything. We're not seeing our brothers, sons, fathers and uncles drafted into the service. And most of us don't have a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan.
While the war rages on the other side of the globe, we simply live our uninterrupted lives.
. . .
Despite our rhetoric about supporting the troops, our actions suggest a deep indifference. Maybe that's because the war doesn't cost us anything or provide any entertainment for us. We care about the NFL playoffs, because we have money riding on the games, or because we're passionate about our Broncos. But the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent in Iraq is borrowed money that's not coming directly out of our pockets, and the troops are mostly people who we don't know.
Two years ago, I wrote a column in which I referred to U.S. soldiers as "slaves." The column was not well received. Most people believed that I was denigrating the troops. My point was that our perception of the average soldier is off the mark. We think of these men and women as volunteers who signed up for military service and are therefore willing to fight. As long as we believe that, we won't worry much about the impact the war is having on them and their families.
As long as we think of them as volunteers, we won't demand answers about the necessity of the war, we won't agitate for an exit strategy, we won't push for a reduction in troops and we won't marshal more help for their struggling families. When you believe that a person volunteered for a difficult job, then you'll respect him and express your amazement at his commitment, but you won't necessarily feel the urge to rescue him.
But if we actually see our soldiers for what they are - mostly young people who signed up because they wanted to travel and/or get an education - then we'll realize that most of them are being held in Iraq against their will. They can't escape until we pay attention, recognize their plight, and do whatever it takes to bring them home.
We're coming up on the third anniversary of this debacle. Three years, can you believe it? Tens of thousands of lives wasted, we can't even guess at how many people permanently disabled, homeless, orphaned. The US economy drained (to pay for private contracts, off which people profit), the military stretched way past the breaking point (what if they're really needed?), and always, the seeds of hatred towards the US and the American people sown more fruitfully every day.
Most of us know: that W lied to garner public support for an invasion that was already planned, that the Iraqi people had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001, that US presence in Iraq is (and always will be) a provocation to violence.
Many of us also know that the US troops were not given the necessary equipment to keep them safe, that the same administration who sent these young people to kill and be killed in Iraq cut veterans' benefits, that the principal players have never fought a day of combat themselves. (And they question our patriotism??)
Yet, even though the much of the public knows this, the war continues.
Many Americans can ignore the war. Many who oppose it feel powerless to affect change, or overwhelmed with issues on the domestic front. Congress could demand an immediate end to the war, but they're too busy... What is it they're busy with again? Rubber-stamping everything the administration gives them?
Meanwhile, what appears to be a spectacular failure is in reality wildly successful, as the people who exhort us to "support our troops" profit off death and destruction. Because you can't spell Iraq without O-I-L.
We're coming up on three years. Three years!
It's frustrating as hell, but we've got to do what we can. Circulate information. Write letters to your local newspaper. Americans, write your Senator and Congressperson. Put a peace bumper sticker on your car, and wear a peace t-shirt at the mall. (Visibility is important!) Attend meetings, rallies, demos.. Donate to peace groups. Support veterans' and veterans' family groups: Veterans Against the War in Iraq, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out.
Three years! How many more?