Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our wrong-headed reactions to ‘fear’

Express Staff Writer

Laughable, yes, but a typical absurdity of misplaced American fears: 6-year-old Cub Scout Zachary Christie expelled from his Delaware school and threatened with 45 days in reform school for ... bringing his Cub Scout eating utensil, a combination knife, fork and spoon, to school.

It's a "weapon," cries the school about Zachary's camping tool, as if the Cub Scouts airily distribute "weapons" to 6-year-olds.

With society thus protected from Zachary and his camping tool, glimpse another absurdity: self-styled right-wing patriots that strut around political rallies or presidential speech venues with handguns strapped to their legs or rifles slung around their chests, some carrying banners suggesting armed revolution, and untouched by authority.

Now Washington's war lobby is promoting the fear that without 60,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan right now, failure to prevent another 9/11 al Qaeda attack on homeland America is almost certain. What a stretch.

If 60,000 troops don't work, more will be requested. Anyone hear ghostly echoes from Vietnam? Generals at that time called for more and yet more troops to avoid failure—760 "advisers" in 1959 grew to 536,100 troops in 1968, and defeat still was unavoidable.

So far, eight years in Afghanistan has cost 872 U.S. troops killed, 27 percent (242) in the first nine months of 2009, the bloodiest year yet. The toll will only steepen. Cost? An estimated $228 billion in Afghanistan to date. A lot more ahead.

All this poured into a nation governed for centuries by tribal warlords, not a stable central government, a nation whose major industry is heroin, whose government is corrupt, whose people historically resent outsiders.

Meanwhile, a genuine crisis at home receives no corresponding alarm. Congress is taking its sweet time slouching toward health care for some 45,000 Americans who die each year for lack of health insurance.

As many Americans die at home from lack of health insurance in seven days—seven days!—as have died in combat in eight years in Afghanistan.

No questions asked about the billions spent in Afghanistan. However, conservative Republicans balk at saving lives at home with better health care resources, not to mention penny-pinching on attacking public sources of fatal accidents and illnesses.

War brings out a nation's breast-beating manliness. Yet, war inevitably spills the blood of America's finest young men and women, drains its financial resources, robs citizens of their domestic needs and achieves nothing comparable to the losses.

Now that's failure everyone can understand.

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