Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cost and Sacrifice in War

I have just recently finished several books on war and our military.  Flags of our Fathers tells the story of the flag raisers at Iwo Jima, Unbroken tells the remarkable story of survival of two members of a bomber crew who crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and Rachel Maddow's book Drift, discusses how the military has become disconnected from normal life in America.

What struck me in these books was the stories of sacrifice and support the country had for the war and the troops during WWII that does not exist today.  Immediately after Pearl Harbor was struck there were immediate calls for rationing, or planting your own gardens, of cutting back on other items, recycling as well as contributing financially to the war effort.  They did this not only to feel a part of the effort, to be patriotic, but they also knew that in order to win the war that there would be costs born by the entire country.

Compare that to what is going on today.  We have now been at war on two different fronts for more than 10 years, even if we are not at "war" they way we were in WWII.  But instead of supporting our troops, instead of understanding that we must make sacrifices, we were instead told not to do anything different and in fact to go out and shop.  Absolutely nothing was asked of the general populace to support these wars, except maybe to give up some personal liberties, which people were more than willing to do.

As the deficits have continued to explode because of the costs of these wars, which coincided with massive tax cuts for the rich, people have become concerned and wanted to address this issue and rightfully so.  However, want they want to point out is not the real culprit of the escalating deficits, which is the fact that it is extremely expensive to run an empire let alone fight on multiple fronts, but instead they want to say it's all about welfare and food stamps and all the "lazy" people who are "stealing" from us, or more appropriately from them.  All the while also strongly supporting our military efforts and ever increasing defense budgets, both those on the books and those not on the books, as all war expenditures are extra-budgetary items.

Today we celebrate the beginning of the revolutionary war (even though we will ignore the fact that they had already been fighting in New England for a while as well as the fact that the Declaration was voted on and passed on July 2 so that should be the true day of independence.)  And what was one of the major issues for the colonies?  Taxation without representation.

Of course the problem was that parliament was taxing the colonies because their treasury was running way low after having spent considerable sums in order to fight two different wars in America to protect the colonies.  As I said, running an empire and fighting wars is extremely expensive, and so they were trying to recoup some of those costs by taxing the colonies.

There are costs and sacrifices that come with war and with being an empire, and we are completely ignoring them.  We are constantly being bombarded with talk that taxes are too high and spending is too much, but until we come to terms with our defense costs, or more appropriately our war costs, and the shared sacrifices we must all take on to bear those costs then we are never going to solve the problem or even get to the root of the problem.

Let us change the heart of the argument.  Every time that a multi-millionaire or billionaire starts talking about how their taxes are too high and they shouldn't have to pay any more, let us call them unpatriotic, let us say that they are not willing to help pay to support our soldiers and their families in order to fight the battles that are being waged.  Food stamp requests in the military are up 25%.  While some of our military families are going hungry we have millionaires whining that they are paying too much in taxes.

The costs of these wars has been born by way too few people, including myself.  If we want to talk about the true war on the 1%, as Fox wants to, let's change it to what it truly is which is on the 1% who are fighting for us.  There are costs and sacrifices in war, and those costs and sacrifices are being born by way too few people.  It has not always been this way, it doesn't need to be this way, and that needs to change.

It can change in multiple ways.  First is that we can decide to bring our troops home.  Second we can begin to change the rhetoric and talk about the costs and sacrifices of war and begin to say that they have to be born by all of us, most especially those with the means to actually pay for them (and I'm talking the wealthy here) and that those who don't want to pay for them are unpatriotic.  Third, let's also begin a dialogue on the cost of operating an empire.

On this day in which we celebrate our independence and our freedom, let us remember the costs and sacrifices of war and say that that cost and that sacrifice is currently being paid for by too few people.

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