Seamans: Everwar

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(HOST)  Commentator Bill Seamans has been thinking about the relationship between those in the military and those back home.

(SEAMANS)  It’s apparent that President Bush’s greatest mistake after going to war in Iraq was not calling upon we the people to share its sacrifices.  A New York Times editorial back on August ninth, 2005, declared that "President Bush refused to ask the nation to sacrifice in any way…"  Thus the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have become distant abstractions for most Americans except those who have borne the sacrifices – the relatives of our thousands of dead and wounded.

The gap between the reality of a war with no end in sight and a public paying little or no attention is a pseudo normalcy dramatized by the millions filling stadiums and watching tv to enjoy football and baseball games as our troops are dying daily overseas.  The fans pay rabid attention to the scores while they ignore our latest casualty figures except when a local service person comes home to be buried.  Our combat troops on two-week home-leaves ask "where is the war?"  It reads like a page out of Orwell’s "1984" in which a background of perpetual warfare is normal and brought to the public’s attention only when needed as a brainwashing weapon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted the other day that our virtual denial of war might finally be brought up as a major political issue in the presidential campaign.  In unusually candid and politically nuanced language he said that most Americans had grown too detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and see military service – in his words – as "something for other people to do."  Gates added that "Whatever their fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the war remains an abstraction – a distant and unpleasant series of news items that do not affect them personally."

Gates thinks this situation is creating a serious growing gap between Americans in uniform and those who aren’t – he said: "There is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend."  The political implication of that statement by Gates surprised me – it almost sounded like he thinks our top brass might be in danger of becoming something like a Banana Republic military junta.

As long as suffering the sacrifices of war has become something for someone else to do, we ask if there a danger that we will morally accept continuing warfare, like in "1984," as our political and cultural normal national lifestyle as we battle the Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan and then on to where ever else Al Qaeda rises up around the world?

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