“If America is truly on a war footing,” Thom Shanker asks in The New York Times, “why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?” Military recruiters are coming up short of volunteers, yet neither party is pushing for a draft. No one is proposing a tax increase to cover the $60 billion annual cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars. There are no World War II-style war bond drives, no victory gardens, not even gas rationing. Back here in the fatherland, only “support our troops” car ribbons indicate that we’re at war—and they aren’t even bumper stickers, they’re magnetic. Apparently Americans aren’t even willing to sacrifice the finish on their automobiles to promote the cause.
“Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us,” the paper quotes an officer who just returned from a year in rose-petal-paved Iraq. “[Symbolic signs of support are] just not enough,” grumbles a brigadier general. “There has to be more,” he demands. “The absence of a call for broader national sacrifice in a time of war has become a near constant topic of discussion among officers and enlisted personnel,” the general claims.
Northwestern University professor Charles Moskos says: “The political leaders are afraid to ask the public for any real sacrifice, which doesn’t speak too highly of the citizenry.”
To which I say: Screw that. It’s not my duty to suffer for this pointless war. I’ve been against it all along, and you can stick your victory garden where the desert sun can’t penetrate.
I was among hundreds of thousands of Americans who marched against invading Iraq in early 2003. Tens of millions cheered us on. The largest mass protest movement in history (so designated by the Guinness Book of World Records) brought together pacifists, humanists and people like me. We knew Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We didn’t believe that the same White House that propped up dictatorships in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—that had, when it suited them, supported Saddam—could possibly be interested in liberating the people of Iraq. When we scrutinized coverage of the CIA’s prewar analyses, we found that there wasn’t any. There were only reports dating back to 1998, ancient history in the intelligence business. We absolutely didn’t trust Dick “cakewalk” Cheney’s breezy predictions.
Bush and Cheney ignored our concerns. Instead of building a solid case and bipartisan political consensus, they bullied and lied to Congress and the UN to scam us into this unwinnable war. Who can blame them? They work for ExxonMobil and Halliburton, not the American people. But they, not us, broke Iraq. It can’t be fixed, it’s not our fault and it’s not our problem. There’s no reason to relinquish our creature comforts to back their grubby little oil grab.
The most galling aspect of this fiasco is that it was entirely predictable. I know; I predicted it. Here’s my column written back in July 2002:
“Most experts expect Iraq to disintegrate into civil war after an overthrow of Saddam’s oppressive Ba’ath Party,” I wrote. “Opinion of the United States is now at an all-time low among Muslims around the world. Going after Iraq will make matters worse. Why give radical anti-American Islamists even more political ammunition with which to recruit suicide bombers and attract the financial donations that fund their assaults?”
I’m no genius, but even I could see that this war was doomed eight months before the invasion:
“Do the Kurds deserve a homeland? Sure. Would Iraq be better off without Saddam? Probably. But if we’re smart, we won’t be the ones to blow over this particular house of cards. We have too much to lose and too little to gain in the mess that would certainly ensue.”
Did I call that one or what?
David Hendrickson, a scholar at Colorado College, tells the Times: “Bush understands that the support of the public for war—especially the war in Iraq—is conditioned on demanding little of the public.” Of course, Bush himself hasn’t given up a second of vacation or a single donated dollar, much less one of his hard-partying daughters, to the “war effort.” Sacrifice is a hard sell down here among the citizenry when we don’t see it starting where it should start, among our leaders.
I’m already sacrificing too much for a war I always believed was stupid and wrong. I’m paying three dollars a gallon for buck-fifty gas and walking through gauntlets of over-armed National Guard boys at airports and bus stations. I’m in greater danger than ever before of getting blown up by a pissed-off fanatic. And I dread the giant tax hike we’ll eventually need to pay off Bush’s deficit. But these aren’t enough sacrifices for Bush and his vainglorious generals, who are planning “a Civilian Reserve, a sort of Peace Corps for professionals… a program to seek commitments from bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers and solid-waste disposal experts to deploy to conflict zones for months at a time on reconstruction assignments, to relieve pressure on the military.”
If you voted for Bush, here’s your chance to plant your butt where your ridiculous car magnet is, smack dab in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. Good luck. MTW