Sunday, November 26, 2006

You Expected Sacrifice? (The Hidden Herbert)

The NYTime's Bob Herbert does a little compare and contrast of the battles being waged this weekend here in the US and in Iraq, and it stings (While Iraq Burns is fully available to Times Select subscribers):
Americans are shopping while Iraq burns.

The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City — where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs — and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.

A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday. “All I can tell you,” said a Wal-Mart employee, “is that they were fired up and ready to spend money.”

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Representative Charles Rangel recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman’s proposal — it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. — but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.


According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October. Nearly 5,000 of those killings occurred in Baghdad, a staggering figure.

In a demoralizing reprise of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the U.N. reported that in Iraq: “The situation of women has continued to deteriorate. Increasing numbers of women were recorded to be either victims of religious extremists or ‘honor killings.’ Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by spouses or male relatives.”


Iraq burns. We shop. The Americans dying in Iraq are barely mentioned in the press anymore. They warrant maybe one sentence in a long roundup article out of Baghdad, or a passing reference — no longer than a few seconds — in a television news account of the latest political ditherings.

Since the vast majority of Americans do not want anything to do with the military or the war, the burden of fighting has fallen on a small cadre of volunteers who are being sent into the war zone again and again. Nearly 3,000 have been killed, and many thousands more have been maimed.

The war has now lasted as long as the American involvement in World War II. But there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility. The soldiers in Iraq are fighting, suffering and dying in a war in which there are no clear objectives and no end in sight, and which a majority of Americans do not support.

They are dying anonymously and pointlessly, while the rest of us are free to buckle ourselves into the family vehicle and head off to the malls and shop.

But what did you expect from BushCo LLC, which never found a draft deferment it couldn't apply for or cash in some favors to get sent to the head of the line for the Champagne Unit of the Texas Air National Guard? Here's a little reminder from the Perrspectives blog (from back in 2004) of the shared sacrifice envisioned by President Chimpy contrasted with the actions of a real President:
Real wartime leaders not only ask Americans to pay for the war, they ask them to make the sacrifices and do without in their daily lives. During the Second World War, Americans faced rationing of foodstuffs and gasoline. They were asked to limit their travel. Citizens were asked to dig deep to purchase war bonds. Just as important for national unity and morale, Americans were asked to save and recycle key war material including tires, cooking oils and fats, just to name a few.

The results of this total mobilization of the American home front were unparalleled: the Axis powers were overwhelmed by American armies that were the best equipped and supplied in history. And the American people, the “Greatest Generation”, experienced a unity at home that has been unmatched before or after.

Fast forward to 2001. Admittedly, the principal similarity to FDR’s America is that the nation was united in responding to a sneak attack that killed thousands on American territory. There was no need to mobilize millions of troops, hoard scarce materials, or convert civilian industry to military use. And yet, President Bush could ask nothing more of Americans than that they go about their business and go shopping.


At 10:26 AM, Blogger RTO Trainer said...

RTO Trainer said...
RTO Trainer to 53% of America:

And I can say that. I can say that because I am nuanced and open minded. I'll prove it. I have changed my mind.
I used to argue with people when they'd complain that they hadn't been asked "to sacrifice," that the President only wan ...


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