To the Point for 8/17/06

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I HEARD A JOKE THE other day:

President Bush and Vice President Cheney were having breakfast in the Oval Office one morning, when the President asked the Vice President a question.

“So update me on what happened in the Middle East overnight,” Bush says.

“Mister President, two Brazilian men were killed last night.”

“How horrible! I’ve had enough. We’ve got to get our men and women out of there!”

“Why now?” was the response.

“I don’t know how many a ‘brazilian’ is, but it sounds like a lot to me,” said the President.

*

We have a problem in this country. For more than three years we have been fighting a war that few understand. We are fighting in with real American heroes; but more and more, we lose sight of who our enemy is.

As the war in Iraq rages on, we as a nation are becoming more and more numb to the situation as it exists. It’s not that our indifference makes the job being done by our troops less important, but the war isn’t front page, headline news anymore – unless there is some sort of tragedy.

For the families who have sons and daughters standing in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is nothing more important than seeing their child or grandchild or brother or sister or husband or wife come home safely; but as we close in on a fourth year in Iraq, the events going on there are at risk of becoming mere statistics to many people.

I checked the Internet for some statistical data on the war:

– The war has currently cost the American government (and taxpayer) more than $307 billion. I’d like to get more specific, but the dollar amount updates itself so quickly that I couldn’t land on a specific cost.

With that money, our government could have hired an additional 5,320,823 teachers for our public schools. It could have provided health insurance for 184 million children for one year.

– There are been 2,601 Americans officially listed as killed by the government. It also lists 19,323 Americans as wounded in action.

Does anyone remember when people got in trouble for placing 1,000 crosses on the lawns of public buildings to signify reaching that number of deaths in the war? We’ve more than doubled that number now, but there doesn’t seem to be much fanfare over the new milestones that we are reaching.

– There have also been 320 Americans killed in fighting in Afghanistan, a country that we don’t seem to think about very much.

When’s the last time we heard that we were tracking Osama bin Laden? Perhaps military security is keeping that information a secret for fear of leaks, but shouldn’t we at least care that we’re still over there hunting him?

– On May 1st, 2003, President Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and announced “mission accomplished” in Iraq. He also took the opportunity to announce that “major combat operations have ended”, but more than three years later, our soldiers are still standing in harm’s way.

It’s been more than two years since we sought and arrested Saddam Hussein. This December will mark the third anniversary of his capture. Our forces correctly allowed the new Iraqi government to put the dictator on trial, but that seems to have turned into a farce, as well.

– Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the deaths of innocent civilians who brought down another airliner before it could strike another target.

Five years: does it seem like it’s been that long? For many of us, September 11th is now centered on the Oliver Stone movie “World Trade Center”.

Stone, who created controversy with his movie “JFK” in which he lays out conspiracy theories; says that his new movie is not a political film, but rather a personal one.

It also is a financial one, as its release date was less than a month prior to the fifth anniversary.

*

What is unprecedented in this country is how steadfast this citizenry supports our troops. Some may not support the war, but all support our men and women.

Being a person who reads all sorts of newspapers, everyday when I read the Indianapolis Star online and see the headline “Hoosier soldier killed in fighting”, I hold my breath in hopes that it isn’t one of our Switzerland County soldiers.

The problem is, the killed soldier is someone’s hometown hero. Somewhere, a family and a community mourns; and I continue to realize just how lucky our community has been not to have suffered a casualty during the past four years.

What we as a society cannot allow to happen is for this war to become the punch line to a series of jokes, like the one that leads this column. As the war becomes more and more the subject of funny stories and conjecture, it becomes less and less about the individual human life that is endangered and taken away each and everyday.

U.S. Department of Defense data says that more than 40,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since fighting began. The point can be made that most have been killed by their own countrymen and soldiers – but they’re still dead.

If our soldiers are going to fight battles in far off places, then we as Americans need to stand behind them and their cause. We cannot allow all of this to become merely the funny ending to a cute story – or the punchline of a bad joke.

Because those two Brazilians have families, too.

*

Sources: CNN.com; costofwar.com