Once again the nation will take a day to honor its veterans. In some places there'll be parades and such, others a chicken barbecue, or fund raisers for various veterans groups and causes. Flags will be prominently displayed throughout small town America, and of course politicians will take the time in reverent tones to speak of the duty and dedication of those who serve. I might have a better idea.
How about making a concerted effort to keep more of our soldiers alive? Maybe if we all took the time to write our respective congressmen and senators a letter demanding the withdrawal of our troops from foreign soil? Can you imagine a world without America's soldiers policing some sort of internal issue that really shouldn't concern us? I can only wonder what we could accomplish if we actually turned guns into plowshares, devoted our money and time to domestic issues rather than making war. Maybe then we could actually produce and sell products made here other than military products. We seem to do just fine with heavy manufacturing in the United States, as long as it involves weaponry.
We've been in Afghanistan for 11 years now, with the loss of more than 2,000 soldiers killed and many more wounded. Newspapers are filled with stories of soldiers having serious mental issues from repeated deployments to a war zone everyone seems to have forgotten about. Is 200 now an acceptable number of dead? In Vietnam, in 1970 as the war wound down, we lost that many every four months. In the three years previous to that, we lost more than that per month.
Yet in 1970, that 6,000 was a blip on the radar screen. Do we really get that inured to combat deaths over time? Vietnam had been a serious issue for approximately five years by 1970. Was that it, was that why nobody seemed to care anymore? And now we have Afghanistan with "only" 2.000 dead and after 11 years.
Many people are getting rich off that war, and many military leaders are receiving promotions, as well as more and more money for their "toys," new and more expensive weapons systems, needed or not. It's too bad too many of our elected officials are more concerned with maintaining the manufacturing of weapons made in their districts than soldiers killed using them.
In an election year, did you hear much talk about the war in Afghanistan? No, you did not. You heard about abortions and voter identifications and the economy and jobs, but very, very little about our children being killed. The only talk seemed to be political footballs about increasing (or not) disability checks for veterans and veteran care, but ironically nothing about reducing the need for that care by keeping our soldiers safe. Yes, I know, danger comes with the territory of being a soldier, but shouldn't there be a question of need or defense before that becomes an issue, or have we come to a point where we no longer care?
I happen to feel that due to the all-volunteer military that may be the case for far too many. If your son or daughter isn't going to be the one to die, if the ones to die come mainly from the lower economic strata, well then isn't that just life? It seems to be that way for the upper classes, and let's be honest, that would include the majority of our elected officials regardless of their starting point.
Do any average voters pay attention to what happens to and within our military? It seems to me that an awful lot of average Americans see the military adventures of our country as just another spectator sport, with winners and losers and "scores", scores being body counts. Any effort to change that scenario is often met with cries directed at those individuals making those attempts as being unpatriotic, un-American, even the dreaded "LIBERALS" label! Really? Trying to limit the unnecessary deaths of young Americans is a bad thing? When and how in the hell did that happen? When did our soldiers become modern day gladiators? When did combat tapes on YouTube and the like become the modern version of the Coliseum in Rome? War is not a videogame; those are real people dying, no matter whose side they're on.
This is not, or at least it shouldn't be, a Republican versus Democrat issue, although many try to turn it that way. Why would a left or right wing political view shape the argument over unnecessary deaths of our soldiers?
Shouldn't the criteria for placing our troops in harm's way have at least something to do with protecting our country? I did not and will not use the term "protecting our interests", as far too often that means protecting the profits of large and important industries and the people who own them. I'll buy that when their children begin to die in those efforts, and not before.
By the way, for those of you who don't know, the plan for the withdrawal of our troops in Afghanistan in 2014 actually calls for leaving almost 20,000 Special Forces and other troops to help and assist the Afghanistan Army. I believe at least some of those soldiers and security forces we're staying behind to train and assist are killing our troops. So we're going to leave them 20,000 targets?
Remember, the people making these decisions are the same people that will be turning up all over the country to praise our troops and to bow their heads in prayer for their safety or remembrance. I have a suggestion for those people, and that is to make decisions that will make prayers and remembrances of any more troops minimally necessary.
Much has been made about proposed cuts to our military budget. Well, if we took a proactive approach to keeping our troops alive and healthy by limiting their deployments to places only necessary for our own protection, I'd say we could do that, couldn't we? The VA would be less overwhelmed without that constant stream of physically and mentally wounded soldiers entering the system. So, not only would we be protecting our soldiers, keeping them out of harm's way as much as possible, there'd be a monetary benefit as well, for those more concerned about money than life, which unfortunately seems to include a high percentage of our financial elite and the elected leaders they've purchased.
So, this year for Veterans Day, let's all pledge to write one letter to each of our elected leaders and representatives in Washington demanding the withdrawal of our troops from stations all over the world where we really have no business being in to begin with, or have overstayed our original need, and ask that the U.N., and not the U.S., become the worlds policeman.
For those that believe, prayers for our soldiers.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org