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March 25, 2008

No More False Dichotomies: Five years in Iraq: shock and gall

So, the war in Iraq has been going on for five years now, and no one gives a damn. Sorry, but that’s how it is.Well, we can’t really say no one, can we? If you’re a family member of an enlisted soldier, reservist or National Guardsman, that finite group who’ve been recycled over and over in this tawdry effort, I imagine you care quite a bit.And isn’t that a lonely place to be? Folks close to the war effort tend to buck up and invoke nationalistic pride while pointing out that violence is sometimes necessary to maintain peace and how that’s not for the squeamish. They often have that “I know what you don’t know but should” air of disgust, and they may resent A) shouldering the burden nearly alone, and B) not getting much credit for it. They may harbor doubts about the war that they don’t feel safe expressing.I don’t blame those folks for feeling insulted, but I do demur.Even that is dicey to say, though, because everything in this discussion gets reduced to either-or, your classic false dichotomy. For example, try telling the father of an American soldier fighting in Iraq this war is foolish and unnecessary. He is unlikely to consider that point whatsoever, and quite likely to feel you’re attacking his son or daughter.That’s unfortunate, because it is not true. Still, at the risk of alienating people who deserve respect for doing what they agreed to do at great personal sacrifice, it must be said: Our government deceives its citizenry, and our so-called leaders are corrupt or cowardly or both. This goes for the neocons who promulgated this mess and also for Democrats who parlayed their war opposition into a Congressional majority, only to shrink from the challenge of ending the war because they’re afraid it may them cost them something politically. These opportunistic and unprincipled Democrats are arguably more venal than their neocon counterparts.I’m stunned when I hear average people assert that bad luck, not corruption, explains the litany of botched efforts since this debacle began five years ago. Consider who benefits from war — largely, it is corporations with political ties and a huge vested interest in the status quo. Billions of dollars in cash are shipped to Iraq, only to disappear into thin air. Construction projects are completed — and are then so unsafe as to be unusable.We ask young people to make huge sacrifices, and then ignore them when they experience the physical, emotional and spiritual traumas that go with modern war. We don’t even take steps to ensure they receive superior healthcare, no questions asked.This is shock and gall.At the end of the day, only average folks can change this. It starts with thinking — digging deeper to find out and understand — and then it involves speaking. Find the courage to admit this war is wrong and the people we want to trust cannot be trusted. Voice that to yourself, then to your friends. Voice it to people you respect and people you don’t know. Then say it to elected officials. Iraq and Vietnam are vastly different, both in time and context. But they share one key point: Our nation is “at war” against an amorphous enemy we’re supposed to believe represents an imminent threat to our very existence. Isn’t it ironic that so few can acknowledge the real threats within?•••Are you parting your hair on the opposite side now? Did you rearrange the furniture? Have you lost weight? Is everything OK?Yep, if something feels different about this week’s LEO, you are not imagining it. We’re smaller. That is, the size of the paper we are printed on has shrunk. It’s not by choice — the industry standard is ever-changing, and there’s nothing to be done about it.We’ll adapt. Our regular type is now a half-point smaller. We’d rather reduce type size than cut words. Otherwise, we’re still the same beast.One brutal truth is that printing is expensive for any publication. In LEO’s case, about 20 percent of our weekly expenses go to printing. It’s our second-largest expense behind payroll. Printing costs were projected to increase 6 percent this year, but the size reduction will largely offset that increase.I miss the days when LEO was a long tabloid. I also miss the hair that used to be on top of my head. Neither one is coming back. Contact the writer at cstemle@leoweekly.com