Wednesday, March 6, 2013

We need some George talk


It is wonderful that President Obama plans to remove most American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the American war in Afghanistan will not be over until all—not most—American military personnel are removed. Most but not all Americans understand that our military doesn’t belong there. That war has cost U.S. taxpayers about $615 billion and counting at this writing. That sum is a fair percentage of the more than $1.4 trillion (and counting) that the U.S. has spent on waging senseless war on defenseless countries posing no military threat to the U.S. since 2001.

That’s $1.4 trillion (and counting) in just 12 years!

Numerically, that’s $1,425,000,000,000!

Not to mention the dead, wounded, maimed, widowed, widowered, orphaned, displaced and unhinged and filled with misery, hopelessness and hatred caused by the war. There are no reliable statistics for these categories of human wretchedness in both America and Afghanistan brought on by the American folly in Afghanistan, and numbers do not bring justice, comprehension or peace to such horror.

We hear and read a great deal about things like the deficit, fiscal cliffs, the sequester, the 47 percent, the 1 percent, deadbeats, unemployment and the necessity of cutting funding for education, health care, social services, national parks, housing, unemployment benefits, transportation, the FAA and many other issues tied to American tax dollars; but we don’t hear and read so much about that $1,425,000,000,000 (and counting) for senseless war and the connection between war-mongering and fiscal cliffs and the sequester.

We need some George talk in this country. Sadly, George died last October at age 90. George McGovern. We need some of George’s wisdom and that quality so absent from today’s political, social and moral discourse—straight talk. George talk.

As a U.S. senator, he was among the first high-profile American politicians to publicly oppose the Vietnam War, the iconic senseless war waged by America in the 20th century. (It is too early in the 21st century to accord iconic status to the senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they will certainly be candidates.)

George’s best known anti-war line delivered on the Senate floor was, “I’m tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to fight.” George was a 20th-century man, and up-to-date George talk would now include ‘old women’ and ‘young women’ in that line.

But George’s lesser-known but more powerful, meaningful and true words were spoken on the Senate floor in September 1970, five years before the senseless Vietnam War ended. He said, “Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land—young men without legs or arms or genitals or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman or a senator or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war, those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.”

One senator told McGovern after the speech that he had been personally offended by the words. George replied, “That’s what I meant to do.”

We need some George talk that is meant in the halls of Congress, in the media, in the streets and homes, in the town halls and rock concerts and in the ballot boxes of America. We need some George talk and action if we are to be responsible. And in George talk we are responsible.

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