Friday, March 21, 2008

On Iraq: Time to Spread the Pain-(Re Post)

from 1/19/2007
also at Oh My News International (podcast link read by Claire George)
During an interview this week with PBS's "Newshour," journalist Jim Lehrer asked U.S. President George Bush, if the struggle in Iraq is so "important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as President of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?"

Lehrer, himself a former U.S. marine, noted that the only Americans actually sacrificing anything at this point were military members and their families.

The President responded that he thought Americans "sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war."

True, much of the sadness Americans feel about Iraq is based on what we read, see, or hear in the media. But our bout with the blues is a minor inconvenience when compared to the pain and sacrifice of American military families.

Face it: Americans can choose to tune in or out and avoid news about the war if we want to. For many, Iraq is viewed as just another current event that may or may not spark political passions.

Keeping us safely on the sidelines is that word "volunteer" military, which appears to absolve many politicians of real guilt, responsibility or understanding of the gravity of what war is, especially when these things are in the planning stages.

In further response to Lehrer's question, the president was quick to defend tax cuts, saying that raising taxes was not an option.

That means the one percent of Americans who earn 16.9 percent of all income in the United States will continue to enjoy peace of mind if they don't watch the news. These are the same individuals who, according to the Economic Policy Institute, control 42.2 percent of all net financial assets in America. According to Bush, if they were asked to make a financial sacrifice through higher taxes, it might "hurt" our growing economy.

But the real tearjerker is that we are sending this financial sacrifice to our children. Our current national debt is $8.6 trillion, a figure that tacks on another estimated $200 billion in war costs each year.

Could it be time for a little soul searching when it comes to spreading the pain of this national debacle?

Is it moral to ask military families to make the tremendous sacrifices they are making, while not asking wealthy Americans to make financial sacrifices during a time of war?

During the PBS interview, Bush told Lehrer he wanted to make sure people feel like "life's moving on, that they're able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table."

Compare this to the collective psychology surrounding World War II and the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, with his dramatic -- what today might be called radical -- 1942 "Call for Sacrifice" said, "indeed in these days when every affordable dollar should go to the war effort, I do not think any American citizen should have a net income in excess of $25,000 per year after taxes." This translates into about $313,000 in the inflation-adjusted dollars of 2005.

That would surely send shivers down the spine of Student Loan Company Sallie Mae (SLM) CEO Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, who earned $39 million in 2006.

But, that leads back to Jim Lehrer's simple question. If the struggle in Iraq is so important, why haven't all Americans been asked to sacrifice something?

While no one can measure an entire nation's psychology with any real degree of certainty, if all Americans, regardless of wealth, were required to "sacrifice," for instance, a year or so of their lives to public service, rest assured the collective level of engagement would rise when it comes to issues that lead to military actions. And that's to say nothing of the positive shared experiences and connectivity.

For now, according to the president, the shared sacrifice is occurring when watching the evening news. My how we've changed.

Roosevelt said in 1942 that the price of civilization must be paid in hard work, sorrow. and blood.

Apparently, Roosevelt and his generation believed that war is fought through the real and tangible sacrifice of all its citizens, including the wealthy. And, Roosevelt, along with his generation, understood that war is a last resort.

Our current president appears to be more concerned with the impact of powerful images -- that the rash of negative news and journalism coming from Iraq is our shared sacrifice. He continues his arrogant spin, to try to spook us with false threats, in order to justify the images, the stories, the truth: a truth that is America's biggest foreign policy mistake in decades.

So, in what has become a time of crisis, where is the call for shared national sacrifice Mr. President? Why have you not asked all of us, as another president did some 20 years after Roosevelt, to ask ourselves, what we can do for our country?

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