::Literate Blather::
Monday, July 02, 2007
Essay: What War?
As Americans prepare for Fourth of July celebrations by lining streets to watch parades, spreading blankets at the beach, and grilling hotdogs and hamburgers at cook-outs, we should try to remember one important thing.

We’re fighting a war.

It’s difficult to comprehend because most of us don’t think about the fact forget that more than 120,000 U.S. troops are in combat over in Iraq on a daily basis. It’s an abstract that our young men and women are being killed and maimed nearly every day (along with dozens of Iraqi citizens, including children).

It is strange how the war has failed to impact our daily lives.

All it takes is a look back to figure out why. During World War II, President Roosevelt tried to impose a 100 percent tax on incomes of more than $25,000 in order to foot the military cost of the war. Congress voted it down, but by 1944 almost every working person in the United States paid federal income taxes to help defray the war costs (compared to 10 percent before the hostilities).

Back then, the U.S. government also put strident price controls on goods and services. Sacrifices were made to help support the troops.

The civilian population mobilized in response to the Second World War. Communities started Civil Air Patrols to monitor for enemy U-boat activity off the coasts and set-up spotters on mountains and hillsides to search for enemy aircraft. We also had a draft, which kept soldiers – of all races and socioeconomic classes – on the battlefield.

Flash forward to the Iraq War.

Despite mounting expenses and a price tag so far of more than $400 billion, President Bush has yet to ask the American people to pay for it. In fact, Bush has cut taxes – mainly on the wealthy. American workers have not been asked to defray the cost of the conflict – instead we’re paying for it with debt – basically passing on the cost to future generations.

There has been no price controls placed on goods and services – not even gasoline. The draft has been eliminated and the war is now being fought by our professional fighting class – mostly people in the lower income brackets with few opportunities for advancement outside of military service.

Americans without relatives in the military have not been asked to sacrifice anything.

And that’s the problem with the Iraq War. While the conflict continues to escalate (3,583 dead and 26,350 wounded as of this posting), Americans don’t seem to remember (or care) that we’re at war. People are planning their vacations (I have friends flying to Europe and others who are going on a cruise).

For the last few days the iPhone hype got more media attention than the war in Iraq. A search of “iPhone” at Google News for the last 24-hours generated more than 66,000 stories and “Iraq War” about 57,000.

The only reminders that we’re at war are the news stories which have been pushed off the front pages of newspapers and the occasional Doonesbury cartoon. This might be why only 29 percent of Americans believing we aren’t winning the war against terrorism, according to a recent Gallop Poll.

Does anyone even talk about the war anymore? I’ve been to numerous cook-outs and birthday parties in the last several months and the war is rarely even mentioned. This is because the war has been politicized and talking about it is akin to bring up abortion at a cocktail party. The media fuels this by positioning the war as a political battle between Republicans and Democrats rather than… well, a war.

This is also compounded by the fact that most Americans know little of the details about the Iraq War. The mainstream press gives us nebulous terms like “insurgents” to describe our enemies (a bad catch-all phrase for the different Sunni and Shai militias and Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq). Americans are treated to stories about the dead – but few stories about our strategy and progress.

Which leads to a very trouble question: Has the Iraq War already been forgotten even though we’re still fighting it?

The answer seems to be a resounding: “Yes.”

Think about that while you’re watching fireworks at your local Fourth of July celebration.

Click here to read our essay about Mormonism and Christianity

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