Except for those who fight them and families who suffer terrible anxiety about their loved ones, wars can become images of heroism, national honor and pride, as well as providing slogans about victory for Americans back home who are detached from the reality of battle.
The late CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, among others, concluded that he and others turned against the Vietnam War when they personally saw the ghastly, frontline costs in GI lives, the doleful drain of dollars and the futility of fighting an enemy that refused to submit to the best a superpower could dish out.
A painting now exhibited by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington might have the same effect as it makes its way around the Internet.
Artist Matthew Mitchell's portrait of horribly burned former Army Sgt. Richard Yarosh, which can be seen at USA Today's website, is a dreadful reminder of the human suffering of men in combat.
Scarred almost beyond recognition for life by a fuel explosion, Sgt. Yarosh is but one of the hundreds of thousands of casualties—living and dead—of the U.S. expeditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If President Obama yields to military commanders and diplomats and orders troops to remain in Afghanistan until 2014, three years after a tentative 2011 pullout date, more thousands of GIs are bound to die or return home afflicted for life by injuries and psychological trauma.
Every politician who votes to extend the war should visit Sgt. Yarosh's portrait and ponder what he or she sees.