Saturday, March 25, 2006


The third anniversary of the war in Iraq came and went without much fanfare. Not the old Vietnam style protests whether they did any good or not. And, the few that were held didn't get much attention and few young people showed up or had any interest it seems. Why? Simply, kids, like most adults don't have any vested interest in the war. It really is not affecting them. Life goes on and for youngsters, there's no draft, they don't have to think in those terms so why get excited--you have a war, you have someone else doing the fighting. What is the big deal!

In some ways, it is not that activism has gone the way of nothing. From various reports, students are getting involved in Teach America, there's been a resurgence in the Peace Corp. And, many students went to help in Katrina. Maybe it's just the idea of an abstract war going on somewhere else, not really affecting anybody other than those fighting or their families--the political spin of the government surely can't be discounted.


Without a draft or any sort of Universal Service, kids by in large don't have any incentive to serve. I talk to parents of kids who are draft eligible with great regularity and simply unless there is an unusual circumstances, they don't think about it.In a bitterly divided country involved in a very divisive war that rational people see no end too, the vast majority agree our troops should not be held accountable for the politics that led to Iraq becoming IRAQNAM.

And, for most of us Vietnam vets who think about it, our great legacy is the fact that most Americans who care and not all do, realize that soldiers who fought in Vietnam were blamed for a very sorry war--even for the lies on what we were doing in Vietnam and the mismanagement of battle plans we could not salvage. And, it is true that for most, we're determined not to make that mistake again. This time around, most of us salute our soldiers.

That being said, the vast majority of Americans are still willing for other people's kids to fight their wars. Three long years ago, when the invasion of Iraq was widely supported as an extension of the war on terror, the prospect of a military draft was occasional mentioned but more with rancor than anything else. Simply stated, across party lines, especially among the affluent classes, the draft was a word uttered in disdain if at all--noway, do we want our sons and daughters to serve the nation's military. Nothing has changed.


The politics of the draft reflected the vast majority of Americans thoughts. The volunteer Army was touted as all sufficient. Let's face it, all those hawks who supported the war and still do, don't have any "skin" in the game--doesn't affect them or their families? I'm not much of a Michael Moore fan as he's taken his antigovernment to an absurd level, not to mention making a sack full of money from his movies. But, there is a priceless scene in Fahrenheit 9-11, when he approaches Congressman wanting them to give the paperwork to their sons and daughters on joining the military. Got to love it. Congressional hypocrisy at its height: sending other Moms and Dad's kids off to war.


They are, by in large, from America's working class. Why do they join up? Let's subscribe to them the best of motives, patriotism. And, it is relatively true. When the parents or wives or friends are interviewed at their funerals, it sounds so much better to talk about their patriotism. In reality, however, they are kids where economic prospects are less than stellar. They are high-school graduates who're not going to college because of costs, many young parents who need a regular paycheck and health care for their families. According to DOD statistics, soldiers come from households earning between $32,000 and $33,500. (The median American income is $43,300.)

There is a sense of denial in the people I talk too who are willing to admit that we've left the burden of defending an affluent nation to those who enjoy less of its affluence. It isn't so much classic denial as they simply don't want to fess up. Occasionally, I'll have some of my buddies say, "well, they volunteered." True and we have to affirm kids for this but it does not alter the fact of who they are--many relate their service to 9-11 and duty, honor, country--who can kick that: however, it does mean that the wealthier surely didn't get overwhelmed with patriotism.


Vietnam vets are rare these days in government but there are a few. Vice President Dick Cheney has said he had "other priorities" during the war in Vietnam. And President Bush ... think missing meetings of the Air Guard. At some point, there may be some shame but it is not evident. I understand Cheney, the guy shot a buddy hunting, no telling what he might have done in Vietnam but what about men like Sen. John Kerry, John McCain, Chuck Hegel and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vietnam veterans who have seen young men die in combat. Don't they "get it," this fighting a war on the backs of working class Americans. They know better and AllServe was a factor in Vietnam, even if it was somewhat a pretext. At least all were duty bound because of the draft. It is unjust and immoral for a small segment of Americans to fight such a war in Iraq. There is no other argument in my mind that has credibility.