War: What a bummer

In Monday's Anchorage Daily News. Originally from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on 1/18/07. Click the link above for original from St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Thursday, Jan. 18 2007

President George W. Bush was interviewed Tuesday on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." Mr. Lehrer asked the president the following question: "[W]hy have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military — the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They're the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point."

Here is the president's reply: "Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they 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."

Really. That's what the president said: Americans are sacrificing their peace of mind when they see the war on television. And even though we've got iPods and plasma TVs and SUVs and all the other glories of a $13 trillion economy, the war is taking some of the fun out of it.

William T. Sherman: "War is hell."

George W. Bush: "War's a bummer."

If anyone still doubted that Mr. Bush is out of touch with the realities of his war, this should erase it. Not since he landed on the Gulf Coast in the middle of the chaotic response to Hurricane Katrina and said "Heck of a job, Brownie" has his cluelessness been so exposed. The president has been accused of "living in a bubble," but bubbles let light in. The man is living in a sensory deprivation chamber.

In World War II, gasoline, rubber, meat and hundreds of other commodities were rationed. Nearly every American family had a brother or son or father in uniform. In Korea and Vietnam, draftees from upper- and middle-class families fought and died alongside enlistees from the working class who were making the military a career. The enormous costs of all these wars were financed out of the general U.S. budget. One way or another, Americans fought these wars together, and we gave up a lot to do it.

The Iraq war is being fought by an all-volunteer military drawn mainly from poor and working-class families. Only 13 of the 535 members of Congress have sons or daughters who have fought or are fighting in the war. In a war with shared sacrifice, the healthy young Cardinal baseball champions who posed for pictures with Mr. Bush before his appearance with Mr. Lehrer Tuesday would fill a couple of Stryker combat vehicles.

The half-trillion dollar cost of the war is being financed not with taxes, but with borrowed money, mostly from foreign banks. Instead of asking everyone to share the costs, Mr. Bush cut taxes and passed out most of the benefits to the richest 10 percent of Americans.

To the extent that it has cost the average American anything, the war may have added about a nickel to the increased price of a gallon of gasoline. And we whine about that — unless we are an oil company enjoying record profits.

Indeed, the war actually has helped the "fantastic economy" Mr. Bush bragged about. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that earnings at defense companies continue to outpace the S&P index, with no let-up in sight.

There is sacrifice ahead, of course, and not only for the troops and their families. Eventually, the cost of the war will have to be repaid, although it is our children and grandchildren who will bear the burden. Think of what all that money could have bought: health care, scientific research to cure disease, college tuition.

But don't think too much about it. It's a bummer.


Post a Comment

<< Home

  • Facebook me