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The Tally Ho

Monday, July 25, 2005

The "poverty draft", and which moms will pay for this war

(Disclaimer: Since returning from vacation, I have been sifting through stories and events, and may be a little behind the moment on blog discussions. Be forewarned.)

Robert Cushing and Bill Bishop co-wrote an excellent editorial in the NYTimes last week entitled "The Rural War".* They point out that the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq come disproportionately from rural counties, and theorize that this is because these areas tend to be poorer and have fewer job opportunities for young men. "When the Iraq war memorials go up in years to come," they write, "these monuments to heroism and sacrifice will be found less often in thriving urban centers than in lagging rural communities." As the war begins to involve young men that I know, it seems imperative to understand why we're not making any progress and and how we can end this fiasco while losing the fewest soldiers possible. Also, as a city kid grumbling about her taxes, it's important for me to remember who's paying most of the human cost of this project.

I'm troubled and a little shocked by the blind faith that so many of our citizens are putting in government action and information. I can only imagine what the parents of these young men and women must feel as their kids get shipped to alien landscapes--I hear some of them say that they're proud, and confident, and know that their children are doing the right thing. How many of them quietly want to call off the whole campaign so their daughter or son can stay home? This whole business of "freedom on the march" is getting tiresome. Freedom's feet must hurt by now. Bring it home, let it sit in the library awhile where it belongs.

In other world events, one of the smarter men that I know is absolutely unconcerned by Britain's police, who are suddenly shooting civilians. "When the going gets tough," he says, "you have to call out the sons-of-bitches." It's a favorite quote of his from some army guy. He's got an unshakeable conviction that things will go the way they're supposed to: intelligence officials will check information carefully, leaders will act thoughtfully and prudently for the good of the country, civilians will enjoy the privileges of liberty and will never be in a situation where they might gain access to (or photographs of) classified information. I admire that faith of his, but I can't share it. The whole system of defense is based on trusting one's leaders, and soldiers don't get to make judgement calls about which missions they will run or when to follow orders. If our leaders are unwise, there's no Plan B. So who do we expect to monitor the leaders? The ones who have closest contact with the effects of our foreign policy are being trained not to question. It's a necessary but inefficient system.

I guess I just don't have much trust this week.
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* The NYTimes.com is still taking down articles after one week. If you'd like the full text, ask your friendly local archivist.

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