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COMMENTARY: Is Anything Going On Here We Should Care About?

Posted by kinchendavid on November 18, 2006

By Joseph J. Honick

Bainbridge Island, WA  – I need some help that I’m sure others may feel the need for as well.

Daily we are reminded we are a “nation at war.” Hard to figure this to be the case while – when not working hard to drive fear into our hearts – the White House constantly reminds us how good things are, how many people are at work and how great the economy is.

Somehow, in my recollection and reading of times past, when the nation was globally engaged in conflict, as in World War II, citizens helped to finance our troops by buying bonds and conserving precious materials that could be recycled into war vehicles and arms. Hollywood operated the famous canteens for servicemen to find some companionship and refreshment. The USO was a conspicuous place almost everywhere for service people to use. Parents proudly, and sometime sadly, hung banners in their windows to signify family members in the service or those who had perished.

Just as noteworthy, many who were in uniform questioned the lack of national service by obviously qualified young men (and now women) so that the burdens of war could be shared appropriately.

These are just a few points that need response. More important is the fact that no one seems to wonder about them or care.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, in one political flick of the pen in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the All Volunteer Armed Forces Act, ending the draft that had bedeviled a divided nation during the Vietnam conflict that ended in embarrassing defeat. Since that time, even uttering the word “draft” has resulted in angry words across the political spectrum, from left to right.

Yet, here we are in what our president terms a global war on terrorism, engaged in massive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, forced to call thousands of civilian soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to active duty and putting the heavy emotional and risk dangers on many of them by requiring multiple tours in Iraq, among other situations.

Those of us not connected to the war by family and friends in the armed forces are encouraged to go on in a kind of schizoid existence, fearful of terrorists around every corner, on all modes of transportation while urged to live it up in our economy where profiteers have become wealthy off the war.

Against this backdrop is the incongruous commentary by President George W Bush in his visit to Communist Vietnam to whom we had to surrender after the loss of 58,000 American lives and tens of thousands more who were maimed. Today that nation is the center of massive infusion of investment from America and many other countries. The President hailed the Communist nation as an exciting and dynamic place. The chaos, conflict and tragedy in Iraq and Afghanistan are no less complex and costly. Will those with whom we have been engaged in war once more become economic allies eventually like Vietnam as the tragedies fade into the past?

It is noteworthy that the thousands of troops of all the services facing a variety of enemies, human and environmental, in the Middle East seem not to wonder why others of military eligible age have not been willing to offer their services. In other times, most would have been called “draft dodgers.” Without a draft today, such people are merely getting the most of the American economic opportunities, with the only real inconveniences coming at security checkpoints at airports and a few other places. The fact of 9/11 attacks seemed not to have engendered any organized kind of personal involvement of much of an overt nature.

There are no specific answers to the questions raised here, mostly because of how difficult it is to figure out why the circumstances are as they are.



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