Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Reflections

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our military veterans who have died in service to our country. It is important to have a strong military force in place to defend ourselves.

Ironically, this weekend two important milestones relate to this particular holiday. As of this weekend, 1,000 members of the military have died in Iraq, and we have spent one trillion dollars on that war. All of which, in my opinion, was unnecessary. There was no good reason to wage a war in Iraq. What have we actually purchased with those 1,000 lives and one trillion dollars?

How would I define a justifiable war? When Pearl Harbor was attacked, we rose up in self defense. People agreed that we needed to get up and defend ourselves. Private industry mobilized to support the military. Women worked in factories while men went off to fight. People accepted rationing as necessary. Everyone pulled together for a victory, and so there was one.

We did not win a decisive victory in Korea or Vietnam, I think because that unity that existed in World War 2 was missing. There was no unanimous agreement that we should be in those wars. During the Vietnam War, there were major public protests to end the war.

Why were there no such massive protests against the Iraq War? Because there has not been a draft since Vietnam. When we were all likely to be drafted to go and risk our lives in Vietnam, both the young men and many of their friends and families protested. During the Iraq War, there is no draft and all of us are not likely to go there and risk our lives unless we volunteer to do so. That leaves many people to simply ignore it.

With all due respect for the courage and dedicated service of our military men and women, the milestones pose very pertinent questions. Why do something we do not have to do, as individuals or as a country?

When the subject of providing health care coverage for all citizens, one of the objections is that we could not afford to do that. Some people object to increasing unemployment compensation even as many American businesses have moved their operations to countries where they can hire cheaper labor.

Yet, if all that is too much for us to afford, how do we find the money to pay for a Vietnam War or and Iraq War? it seems to me that if we can find a million dollars in our budget to create a war in Iraq, we could find money in our budget to provide health care for everyone, provide educational opportunities for everyone at a reasonable cost, and provide the safety net of unemployment compensation. A trillion dollars could buy a lot more life affirming things.

We should still maintain a military for self defense. For example, why not have them guard our airports and train stations, and public spaces?

In another development this week, more troops were sent to the border areas to try and prevent drug gang violence from becoming as common here as it is in the Mexican border towns. But there is a practical solution there too. If we were to simply legalize drugs, there would be no traffic for the cartels to fight over, and their reason for being would evaporate overnight. We could bring an end to that violence without using force.

I suggest that we reflect on the wiser use of our resources and make decisions which will contribute to peace. I know that some may say that these suggestions are too idealistic, but think about it. Instead of buying a war in Iraq, we could have bought health care, education and a safety net for our neediest people. And we can defuse another war by simply changing one of our laws, swiftly ending a wave of murders, tortures and corruption. Seems like a better buy to me.

So let us honor our military people by bringing them home from unnecessary wars and using our power to take better care of our own people.

No comments: