Letter from the editor

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

War is more than a campaign issue

I don't know all that much, I admit. I look at my daughter's algebra homework and then put it down until the dizziness passes.

When it comes to numbers, this much is clear:

We lost 2,973 American lives in a 9-11 tragedy that was initiated by an international hatred group.

As of this writing, we have sacrificed 3,296 American lives and serious injuries to our young military people in the Iraq conflict that was initiated as a response, by... ourselves.

The estimated economic loss in the 9-11 New York tragedies is estimated at a staggering $105 billion.

Cost of the war in Iraq has reached nearly $370 billion.

The number of people reporting heartbreaking injuries, resperatory illness or traumatic stress disorder from the tragedy in the five years following 9-11 - 422,000.

The number of lives lost, many civilian, that can be attributed to war violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been estimated in a Johns Hopkins study - 601,027.

The approximate number of units of donated blood sent to the New York Blood Center in response to 9-11 to help was impressive: 36,000.

The number of weapons sent by the U.S. to the conflict in the middle east to fight: a roughly-estimated 500,000.

I'm told that the Senate blocked a bill proposed by Sen. Clinton to designate funds for the treatment of Ground Zero responders, workers and residents, as 70 percent of the first 10,000 rescue workers have suffered some illness from their exposure: she asked $1.9 billion.

A Congressional analysis shows that appropriations that the same lawmakers have approved, will spend more than that to fight the war in Iraq every week: $2 billion.

Like a lot of us in the tumultuous months after 9-11, I didn't know what to think of going to war with Iraq. I was born into the Vietnam era, and remember the human costs of fathers and big brothers in my neighborhood. We were raised to protest war.

On the other hand, perhaps like many of you, I knew there had to be some kind of response to the senseless killing of 9-11. We demanded it of our leaders. I am not at all ashamed to say that I have taken pride in the exceptional work our military men and women have done, including several group of National Guard people from our own community - as well as hurt for a few area families who did not see their young soldiers return home.

Like a lot of you, I never felt that this was was about Osama bin Laden or weapons of mass destruction - wasn't it about deposing two terrorist-sponsoring regimes is hopes for a better world?

Maybe a lot of you also think this isn't a Republican and Democrat issue, or just another splintered plank in somebody's self-serving political rhetoric. That feeling a responsibility to duty does not make one torturious and evil, and on the other hand, that wishing for peace does not make one a "cut-and-run" coward.

Our country has done what it felt it had to do in a time of great crisis, and has done it well, from most of what we can see from our safe distance and hear from our returning young people. Even in war, our soldiers have found avenues for countless small, uncommon acts of caring and humanitarianism, and for this we should be very proud.

Perhaps like a lot of you, I don't think the end of this conflict will in any way be admitting defeat, as some of our leaders try to goad us. We won this military battle, and did it straight away. There is much to do before any lasting peace can be assured, but our country has done what it said it would. When our young people come home, it will be in victory and honor.

Maybe many of you also feel that ultimate victory will no longer be won here with rifles and missiles, but with the slow turn of world philosophy against harboring terrorists and incubating hate. No part of the world can fully progress until we can share knowledge, trade and understanding for the sake of the betterment of all of our children and grandchildren to come.

Is it time to come home? Who would we be to say - you and I - safely removed in a lovely small town in Iowa, about as far from the world of roadside snipers and mortar bombs as one could get.

In my heart, I have my opinion... and so do each of you reading this, and each American. That's the beauty of freedom - we can.

It seems somehow wrong for this to be made into a political campaign vehicle this season - it is, after all, our conflict, all of ours. Like it or not, we are all responsible. Is it really so impossible to agree - Democrat and Republican, hawk and dove, liberal and conservative - as to when enough will be enough?

If Democrats capture a house of Congress in this election cycle, there will be a massive, immediate butting of heads to either extend our occupation of Iraq at least until the end of the current Administration, or to bring it to a sudden crashing halt no matter what. Like many of you, I suspect that neither is the reasoned response if what foothold gains we have won at great cost in the middle east are to hold at all.

We can only hope our political leaders - all of them - can come together long enough to seek a wise conclusion, as they did come together in the days following the stunning blow of 9-11. We can only hope that after the conflict, they will continue to reach out to the world's hearts and minds for the day when there is freedom and opportunity to grasp for in the nations, the antithesis for bitterness and terrorism. But that, I bet most of you agree, is a much more challenging assignment than vectoring a bombing raid.

Perhaps, like me, you are no math major, no expert on international affairs. But we can add our tragic losses in 9-11 to the human price being paid in Iraq, and reach our conclusions.