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Letters to the Editor

War costs

January 20, 2012

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To the editor:

My nephew from Oklahoma was home for Christmas on a two-week break from his second tour in Afghanistan. He leads his National Guard squad on the edge of the northern mountains. He was diagnosed with PTSD after his first tour; he’s gone back by now.

Last week, I played golf with one of my kid’s friends I’ve known forever. He spent a year in Iraq. I asked him about the soldier who killed the park ranger in Washington. Both of them, he says, should be listed as casualties of the war.

I am Vietnam-aged, but unlike Curtis Bennett (Public Forum, Jan. 18), I managed to miss the party, mostly good for me. Consequently, I cannot hope to imagine the experience or motivations of the soldiers shown urinating on their slain enemies. Nor can most of you.

I doubt these men would have projected themselves into these images five years ago when they were high school students, or younger. I cannot guess what they will see when they look back in 40 years.

We’ve been fighting a war on the cheap. Because we lack the political will to expose all of our children to the danger of a draft, for 10 years we have turned our heads and looked the other way. We’ve put the burden on a few and their families. We satisfy ourselves with patriotic homage four or five days a year and with fly-overs at ballgames. Then we recoil from an image of the reality of a war we made.

Comments

Abdu Omar 2 years, 8 months ago

The war in Iraq was a waste of time, lives and treasure. The war in Afghanistan is over. We found our enemy, ruined his day and now let's come home. I am not convinced that 11 terrorists flew highly sophisticated aircraft precisely into one of three buildings nor can I believe that their impact caused the twin towers to collapse. But that is the official report and we all must live by it. But the war is complete, the terrorists are dead, the military has no mission to improve Afganistan or help them govern themselves. Bring the troops home.

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jaywalker 2 years, 8 months ago

Plus one, Paul? For a post that includes a wisp of the ludicrous 9/11 conspiracy crappola? I mean, everything else is true, but it's never advisable or admirable to follow the path of minds like Ventura and O'Donnell.

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Lesa Weller 2 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Skepnek, your letter touched me deeply. How do we cross these great hurdles in society's seemingly divided and widening disparities? With the knowledge we gain each day, comes a responsibility to not just grieve (of course we must do that), but to react with the energy our grief creates. How do we continue to open our eyes without being overcome by the realities, but be stirred to action with the strength to face them head-on? Thank you for your letter.

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beatrice 2 years, 8 months ago

I wouldn't say you go "jumped," I would say someone questioned your reasoning on military spending. I agree with Liberty on this one. No matter how many more billions we spent on tanks and planes and bombs, it still wouldn't have stopped the guys with box cutters. The war against terrorists is fought and won through intelligence, not with an army.

Also, one post not flaming liberals -- as surprising as that is -- doesn't automatically give you a pass.

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Shane Garrett 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't forget my favorite war between Spain and England called the War of Jenkins Ear. Seems some sot got it cut off in a bar fight resulting in two countries going to war.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes, the U.S. spends more than everyone else. But why is that? I think that part of the reason is that we've come to expect unreal results.
After U.S. involvement in the Bosnian conflict (more precisely NATO, but I'm limiting my thoughts to the U.S. role within NATO), we've come to expect conflict with exactly zero casualties. Somewhere along the line, we now expect U.S. technology to protect our soldiers to the point where they are not put at risk. In order to accomplish this line of thinking, there must be huge expenditures to provide that technology.
Huge expenditures equals diminished risk to our soldiers, or so the line of thinking goes. Whether or not that line of thinking is correct is something I'm not qualified to answer. I just think that's part of the rationale for the huge expenditures.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm firmly affiliated with ... me.
Used to live in S.F., now back home in Lawrence.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

Part of the reason we spend more is because we subsidize Europe's security by having our military stationed there. They can spend less on defense because we protect them.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

Very true, Fred. And that can be expanded to the far east with our troops in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, etc.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 8 months ago

We are not in europe to protect our allies. We are in europe to protect our interests. Big difference.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 8 months ago

Occasionally I agree with you, Liberty. On this point, you are spot on.

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Liberty275 2 years, 8 months ago

If anyone thinks they are going to put a hurt on America, we can surface one of the 20 subs we have sitting off their shores so they have a chance to rethink the idea. Americans are nice and all, but we have been known to nuke cities full of civilians.

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beatrice 2 years, 8 months ago

Just once or twice. You can't judge us on that.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

As I've previously commented I support those young soliders for much the same reasons you stated in your letter.

I do reject your notion that we place the burden of war on a few. It is a volunteer army and they volunteer. It is their choice not their burden.

I am not opposed to a draft, but if we ever have one it must be a fair one that includes everyone including women and the privleged.

Finally, we must not choose to engage in a war. We must only engage in war when we are compelled to engage with no other options. And when we do, it must be with clear objectives and the primary ones to defend our country and defeat our enemy with whatever means we have available.

No nation building. No building democracies. No defending countries that are not our true allies even though they may have oil.

Okay, y'all. I've given you a lot to like and hate....have at it.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

There is definitely a strong Constitutional argument against the draft for basically the reasons you stated.

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ThePilgrim 2 years, 8 months ago

It is a volunteer army. And like never before we have sent reservists and National Guard in as primary combat troops. I was in the military and neither of these groups got the same training as regular troops. They went through basic, some brief overview of their "job classification" and went home. Jessica Lynch is the perfect example of what happens when you send poorly trained and poorly equipped troops into battle. In Desert Storm the reservists backfilled active duty troops in the US bases and far from the front lines. Not in these wars. I have nothing but respect for our soldiers. It is too bad that our leadership does not have respect for them by using them in a war for "black gold, Texas tea".

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bevy 2 years, 8 months ago

Prayers for your brother and your family, and my thanks to him for his service and sacrifice. Whatever our feelings about the wars, the fact remains that good men and women put their lives, bodies and minds on the line for us. We owe them a debt of gratitude regardless.

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jayhawklawrence 2 years, 8 months ago

This is a very good letter and the points are well stated.

It is a war.

I recall the words of my Uncle who was on Tarawa and 6 other Island campaigns in the South Pacific. When I asked him what was the most important thing he learned after surviving that hell he said without hesitation, "never volunteer."

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

"The war in Iraq was a waste of time, lives and treasure. The war in Afghanistan is over. We found our enemy, ruined his day and now let's come home. I am not convinced that 11 terrorists flew highly sophisticated aircraft precisely into one of three buildings nor can I believe that their impact caused the twin towers to collapse. But that is the official report and we all must live by it. But the war is complete, the terrorists are dead, the military has no mission to improve Afganistan or help them govern themselves. Bring the troops home. "

Ditto

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

Now about these 35,000-50,000 disabled USA troops.

The trillions in spending will not stop anytime soon maybe 50-60 years until these soldiers pass on and their spouses.

Yes this is the cost that rarely if ever is mentioned. Of course politicians do not talk about this matter. Money of course will never replace what many of these soldiers lost. Being exposed to depleted uranium powder sets them up for cancer in years to come.

Stop this damn war and bring the troops home.

The war is accomplishing little if anything. How would any of us feel if we were in Iraq,Pakistan,Yemen or Afghanistan and the worlds most powerful military were killing our fathers,mothers and children who had nothing to do with nor condoned the 9/11/01 action?

Haven't we been advised that most of the culprits and money were from Saudi Arabia?

Bring the troops home!

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Shane Garrett 2 years, 8 months ago

So If we put around 30% of GDP into a war the US can end it in 4 years. As opposed to putting in 1.2% and dragging it out for 10 or more?

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

No, we didn't have to drag the war out 4 years or 10 years. Turn the military loose and let them win the war. I'll catch flak for this, but I believe if we must go to war then we are at war with the entire country. So, if there is collateral damage then so be it. Just like bombing Berlin in WWII, bomb Iraq and Afganistan into submission. And, do not rebuild them.

As i said, we do this if we have to go to war. I don't believe that we needed to go to war with Iraq. Afghanistan is a different story, but I'm not completely convinced it was the right thing to do, but I can't say for sure.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

Wow.

And is it likewise ok for other countries to do the same to us?

There are many in this country who do not support various wars that the US is involved with - why is it ok for them to be killed?

If that's not ok, then it isn't ok for us to do the same to others.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

jafs, as I explained earlier, we should only go to war as a last resort in defense of our country. So, I stand behind my position that if we are forced into war that we should go at it 100 percent and not hold back even if that means civilians are killed. They too are the enemy.

We did this in WW II in Japan and Germany and it was right then and is right now.

And yes, we can expect the same from our enemy, then and now. Radical Islam is at war with us and they don't care that they kill civilians. They are out to win.

Like it or not, support it or not, unless you renounce you're citizenship, you're an American and our country's actions are your actions too. So, if we wage a war you disagree with then be prepared for the consequences or leave the country. Probably many of those in the Towers didn't agree with the US policies but the Islamic terrorist didn't care did they?

Are you of the opinion that if we are defending our country we should self-impose limitations that cause more Americans to be killed rather than fight with all our military might even if it means collateral damage?

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

Civilians in other countries who don't support the war their government is conducting are not my enemy, or, in my view, enemies of our country, any more than the Americans who disagree with the wars we wage are enemies of the countries we're at war with.

Our country's actions are most definitely not my actions, if they are actions I disagree with, advocate against, and vote accordingly.

Are you really saying that because terrorists do something, we should do it too? That makes very little sense to me, unless we want to be terrorists, which I don't think most of us want at all.

I reject that choice - given our massive military budget and technological advances, I believe there's a way to successfully wage a war of self-defense while also doing our best not to kill civilians, and I think that's what we should do.

When you start justifying your actions because of actions others engage in, you become like them. We've already traveled much too far along that road for my taste - I certainly don't think we should go even farther.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

Never said we should do it because the terrorist do it. As you said, it would be wrong for us to base our actions on terrorist.

You asked if I was okay with other countries doing it and I was just pointing out that they already are.

We should avoid killing civilians when we can, but if they are in the way then too bad. I'd rather kill a thousand enemy civilians than have one of our soldiers die.

I suppose you think we were wrong to drop the A bomb in WWII.

I beleive we should use restraint, diplomacy, and any other means to avoid war, but if we are forced into it then our one clear objective should be seeking the surrender of the enemy as quickly as possible with as few American causulties as possible.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

" I'd rather kill a thousand enemy civilians than have one of our soldiers die."

And people wonder why Americans are hated in so many places around the world.

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Fred Mertz 2 years, 8 months ago

So you'd rather one American soldier die if it could be prevented by an act that resulted in the death of 1000 civilian enemies? Enemies that unprovoked attacked our country?

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

I have grave concerns about our use of the atomic bomb, yes, as many do, including those who invented it.

And, you didn't answer whether you're ok with other countries doing it or not - I suspect you're not.

In other words, if they target our civilians, it's wrong, but if we target theirs, it's fine.

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Shane Garrett 2 years, 8 months ago

I understand what Fred is saying. We devastated Japan and today that country is one of our closest allies. We devastated Germany and today that country will not attack the USA. We devastated Vietnam and I believe that country would not attack the USA, today. Plus if we put 30% of GDP into devastating and overrunning a country then the problem is fixed in a shorter time period.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

For those enamored with the fact that our current military is voluntary you might consider that we have sent these men/women to an average of three combat tours or 36 months in combat. Have we asked that of anybody else in our history? I wonder how many knew what was coming when they first joined?

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verity 2 years, 8 months ago

And how many joined because they saw it as the only way out of a life of poverty? How many were lied to by the recruiters? How many will never be able to live a normal life because of the things they have experienced? How many will fall through the cracks because the government used them and then disclaims responsibility for them?

If we had a draft (I'm not advocating one), we would have seen protest like we did during the Vietnam War. Now not so much because most of us were not inconvenienced while a few paid dearly.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

No argument here. Ties back to that 1% thing!

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