Who Pays the Cost for Freedom in Iraq?

It has been three years since the United States invaded Iraq on the premise that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. In that time span, over 2000 American soldiers have died, and anywhere from 20,000 to 48,000 have been wounded, many permanently.

Was it worth it?

Has the message we intended to send had the intended effect?

Have those nations with W.M.D. programs of their own unilaterally disarmed out of fear of retribution from the U.S.?

Many point to the Iraqi people being better off, but what about us? How are we? Was this a war to protect us?

Have we become a safer place or a more powerful country as a result?

Better yet, what has this country as a whole been asked to sacrifice for this noble cause?

Let’s be honest, unless you are the family member or friend of someone serving or who did serve, or unless you serve, or unless you live and work in a town with a base or National Guard post, my guess is you haven’t sacrificed much at all. This is not something I say to put you down. After all, you haven’t sacrificed because you haven’t been asked to.

Wait, that’s not entirely true. We have been asked not to criticize the president. We have been asked to keep our opinions to ourselves, as long as our opinion is a dissenting one. We have been asked not to question the wisdom of wire-tapping, pre-war intelligence or our “unique” treatment of prisoners at places like Abu Gharib. Of course, doing these particular things might have dire consequences in the future, but I digress.

Wars are painful and expensive. Someone, somewhere must bear both of these burdens.

In terms of monetary costs, the war has consumed $320 billion. Where is this money coming from? Look at the National Debt. It sits at over 8 trillion dollars and is rising approximately 1.5 billion dollars a day. We are mortgaging our country’s future. We are saddling our children with this debt so that we can have it all: a two-front war without the monetary sacrifice that wars normally bring. Of course, these tax cuts don’t really help anyone making less than $100,000 a year, but I shouldn’t mention such things because I might be inciting class warfare. God forbid the have-nots turn the tables every once in a while. But, I digress. Is it worth it? Will our children accept this responsibility we have placed on them? What does that say about us as parents of the next generation that we would have them pay for our war?

The other cost of this war is in that which cannot be quantified: personal sacrifice. The members of the Armed Forces and their families have bore the brunt of this burden and have done so alone. In the Second World War, everyone contributed. Some fought, some riveted, some collected scrap metal, all rationed, all gave up something. Even the CEOs of major corporations reduced their salaries to $1 a year to show their devotion. Peacetime industries were converted for military use. It was not a question of profits, but one of honor. Profits were made, but the “job to be done” was the first priority. Even pro ballplayers served. When children asked their parents and grandparents what they did during the war, they could point to something, even a minuscule contribution, and say, “that was my job.” When our kids ask us what we did during the Iraq War, what will we say? Poured out a bottle of Beaujolais? Smashed a Dixie Chicks CD? “Flew a flag out in our yard”? Slapped a “I Support Our Troops!” magnet on our rear bumper or bought one of those snappy “Fight Them Here or Fight them There” t-shirts (which were both probably made by Chinese slave laborers in a re-education camp)? Went on talk radio to bash liberals who ask these questions? Joined in the chrous of “amens” and “hallelujahs” when the music director at church sang “God Bless the USA”? And why do we make such gaudy (and cheap) public displays for our support for the troops? Who are we trying to convince, them or us? But again, I digress.

The American people want to sacrifice and will for a truly noble cause. The lines of people outside of blood donation centers after 9-11 and the flood of charity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina prove this. When the going gets tough, and when it’s time to get down to brass tacks, we roll up our sleeves and do it. All Americans ask is that the sacrifice be worth it, and equitable. Not equitable in the sense that everybody gives the same, but equitable in the sense that EVERYONE contributes SOMETHING. If we give up something, especially our loved ones, there had better be a very compelling reason. If not, then the war is nothing more than meaningless slaughter and the architects are simply butchers, psychopaths and fools. Have the sacrifices of the Iraq War been equitable? Have they been worth it? If not, why? What have your elected representatives personally sacrificed? If Iraq is the noble cause our leaders have made it into, why have they asked so little of the civilian population and even less of themselves? Wars are expensive, this one is no different. Who’s paying the human cost of this war if we aren’t? And what’s going to happen if the people who are paying for it decide that they no longer give a damn about a country that doesn’t really give a damn about them.

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