Published in the North Central Chronicle on February 8, 2008.
John Edwards is out of the race. I think he would have made a fine president. His fight against poverty and corruption did not jive well with mainstream media narratives, though they were well-publicized cornerstones of Edwards’ stump speech. But his other equally important message also failed to catch on. After voting to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, Edwards soon reversed his position on the war, and last year created a movement called “Support the Troops. End the War.”
Today, the country’s attention has become fixed on the state of the economy more than the war in Iraq. Of course, as a capitalist nation we like to know how our dollar is doing (for those less interested in current events: it’s not doing so well), but our collective mammonism has diverted our attention away from the war, where men, women, and children are being killed.
Killed. Every single day.
It is hard to fully grasp this concept. Unlike previous American wars, those holding down the home front don’t have to sacrifice anything to keep the war going. During the Civil War, families lost their only income when men served and died on bloody battlefields. During World War II, Americans rationed food and supplies, worked in munitions factories, and were drafted to topple tyranny.
But for this war, there is no draft or call to service by the president, so all we have to do is watch B-roll of chaotic Iraqi marketplaces and argue broad talking points from the comfort and safety of our computer chairs.
That is why, I would argue, the war has not been ended yet. We remain complacent and unaware of what it means to fight a war. I’ve become so desensitized to war images that it seems like no big deal, like it is a video game. I suppose we should ask the family of Spc. Richard Burress, who died two weeks ago from a roadside bomb, if his death was no big deal.
The truth is that war is hell. Soldiers know this, and politicians know how to prevent us from knowing this. They ban images of Americans being killed from appearing in media because, as we found out after the Abu Ghraib scandal, that would cause the public to realize what is actually happening and demand that something be done to stop it.
Regardless of what pundits say, it is possible to support the troops yet not support their mission. President Bush seems to do the opposite. He sends insufficient and ill-equipped troops into a situation even Vice President Cheney knew would become a “quagmire,” then fails to remedy the horrific conditions at Walter Reed hospital and others like it. Yet he said, and kept saying, that we all should support the troops, and implied that anyone who did not was a terrorist-sympathizer. So much for being the “uniter.”
Still, I support the troops. I don’t support their mission, whatever that is (the president has yet to make it clear), but I absolutely, resolutely will support the troops. I don’t have bumper stickers or American flag lapel pins to prove it, but since when did a flimsy piece of plastic indicate one’s amount of patriotism? These men and women volunteer to serve at the high risk of injury, maimedness, or death. They leave their families for weeks, months, even years, to secure and maintain order in a disorderly country while trying to avoid getting a bullet in the brain or shrapnel in the eye. They inspire me – and relieve me from fighting a war we have no business fighting.
I trust you, the (hopefully) well-informed and sensible voter, have been able to see through the malarkey the candidates have been feeding us and decide who will better determine our future in Iraq. I’m living on a prayer that our next president will at least have the gumption, like Edwards did, to support the troops and end the war.