The True Cost of War, The Debate Over Syria & Mass Media Distractions
Last Saturday, flipping channels, I stopped on NBC News as they broke in to cover the President's remarks in the White House Rose Garden on a potential attack on Syria.
In a display of respect for the United States Constitution the President stated that he would seek Congressional approval before launching any military action on Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons in that country's violent civil war.
I started to think about the war we've wound down in Iraq and the war that is still ongoing in Afghanistan. It struck me that we don't hear much about Afghanistan any more. I had seen a New York Times article the day before about how well the Afghan Army was doing keeping the peace in what was once a very lethal Pech Valley.
But I hadn't seen any stories about casualties or fatalities of United States forces. I wondered about the most recent casualty rates and where I could find them. Busy lives can cause us to forget about a war half a world away.
Sunday morning after going to mass I read the Washington Post and something on page A10 caught my eye. It was a small box with the heading "Afghanistan War Deaths". Under the heading was the list of names of soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan. There were five names of men killed in the previous week. They came from California, Missouri, New York, Arkansas and Samoa.
How do we miss these deaths?
Maybe it was because that week our media was dominated by an attention-grabbing dance at the MTV Video Music Awards involving a foam finger — a video I have yet to see and refuse to waste my brain cells viewing.
I did a quick search of the New York Times site and found nearly 30 articles about the MTV Video Music Awards and ZERO about Afghanistan War Fatalities in that week. Today's media coverage gives society the candy that we want and can rot our brains.
There is serious work to be done in this country. By asking Congress to weigh in and debate the merits of military action in Syria the President has done this nation a great service. It should force us all to sit up and pay attention to a real debate on the business of governing this country.
We get fed taglines and over-simplification of issues. Then we get thrown distractions by media-created events like foam finger-twerking, celebrity reality show drama or royal babies.
No matter how one feels about the role of government in our nation, "Providing for the Common Defense" is one of the first things articulated in our Constitution. It is foremost among the things our government must do.
I remember the votes being covered live on the radio in January of 1991 for the resolution authorizing force in the Gulf War. I listened quietly realizing the magnitude of that moment. It was the first time in my lifetime I witnessed a debate and roll call vote authorizing a war. The moment still sticks with me all these years later; I can still picture myself driving my old car listening to the voices come through the old tape deck/radio I had then.
The vote was undertaken in a manner worthy of the sacrifices Congress was asking our soldiers to make. We can only hope that these Congressional deliberations and votes on Syria will be conducted in a way that does honor to our nation and our military.
Visiting our nation's capital this summer, I walked along the rows of white stones in Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. The stones represented those who had served.
Many of them represented people lost in combat; people who would otherwise have lived very different lives if it weren't for mankind's failings. We are, by our very nature, imperfect beings. We've been created in the image of our creator but certainly not endowed with perfect wisdom.
I return to the five young men lost just in the last week of August. They have families who mourn and grieve. Four of the men were 24 years of age and under, just young men really, with so much ahead of them. The fifth was 34 years old.
As we turn towards another potential conflict we must weigh the true costs. For if we do take the step there may be more who make the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice that is still ongoing in Afghanistan whether we take notice as a nation or not.
If we are to be worthy of our soldiers and the sacrifice they make, we should think of Spec. Kenneth Alvarez, Private Jonathan Hostetter, 1st Lt. Jason Togi, Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis and Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Young. Each one of those names represent potential unfulfilled; a life cut short.
We should certainly give them and others who still risk everything for our nation on a daily basis more thought than who dances with whom on a video music awards show.