–Kevin Martin, Executive Director
Last week, veteran AP reporter Robert Burns wrote an interesting article on the 9/11 anniversary titled “War Weary US is Numbed to Drumbeat of Troop Deaths.” Burns told moving stories of a few troops who recently died in Afghanistan, and interviewed some military brass about the supposed problem of the public “not caring” about the war. He quoted think tanker Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations calling Afghanistan the “Who Cares?” war.
The article got me to thinkin’, which was good, but I was troubled by some ironies and contradictions in this so-called problem of Americans “not caring” about the war. So I wrote a letter to Burns (he didn’t reply) raising some issues and questions that went beyond the scope of his article. Here it is, and I’m working on shaping this into an op-ed.
Dear Mr. Burns,
Thank you for your article about the “Who Cares?” war, as you quoted Max Boot on his moniker for it. I’ve enjoyed your reporting for some time now. I appreciate your focus on the cost of war in the human lives of our soldiers, but of course the toll for the people of Afghanistan is much, much worse.
I do think there are some ironies and contradictions re the Afghanistan war that go beyond the scope of your article, which I may well write about, and that I assume you have some views on.
I’m a peace activist, invariably opposed to this country’s many, many wars, but I care about the troops and returning vets (my brother is a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx, meaning unfortunately he has a job for life dealing with the trauma our wars inflict on those who fight them), as do all the peace activists I know. I knew a wonderful young man, a Marine reservist named Gregory McDonald who died in Iraq. He was opposed to the war, but felt he had to go, that he couldn’t have claimed conscientious objector status (as I and others counseled him, and I believe he had a pretty good case). He felt he couldn’t let the others in his unit down, though he vehemently opposed the war. The military counts on that type of coercion or guilt to keep troops in line.
In terms of nobody “caring about the war,” there are many dynamics at play there. Polls show a solid majority of the US populace is now against the war, but there are no widespread or large protests (although I was proud to march in Chicago last May at the NATO protest with GWOT vets returning their medals to protest the wars). Certainly there is some partisan politics at play here, liberals not wanting to criticize Obama, or being “okay” with his promise to end the war by the end of 2014 (though a Foreign Policy article today speculates up to 25K troops may remain for a decade as part of an agreement with the Afghan govt.).
Additionally, it seems to me the Pentagon can’t have it both ways – they don’t want a draft, understandably, as they don’t want to deal with the hassles from soldiers who don’t want to be in the service. The poverty draft, especially in a week economy, suits them just fine. They get an endless supply of our tax dollars to fight their wars and maintain the largest military in human history. They want us to “care” more? Even with multiple “support the troops” programs and manifestations all over society (Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are constantly stressing this, as do many others)? (Which is not to disparage such efforts, we do need to support the troops, and the best way would be to get them home to their families ASAP and provide them the absolute best care we can).
And if there were a draft, the war would be over in a month, the public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails the definition of a just war miserably (the horse sense definition, not the Catholic Church’s official Just War theory). The real definition of a just war is one you’d send your kid to.
Thanks and Peace,