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Everything ventured, nothing gained

Will McAuliffe | Sunday, April 1, 2007

Many critics have noted that the present Iraq War is the first real, long-term war in which the vast majority has not sacrificed anything significant. They say that the .5 percent of the American population in the armed services is bearing the entire burden of the war in Iraq. For the most part, I’m in agreement with their assessment. I don’t have to present any ration coupons when purchasing groceries at the store. Gas prices are still incredibly low by international standards, thanks to gratuitous subsidies for oil companies by our government. I don’t face a draft like my father; I’m not staring at a TV screen clutching a number that will determine whether I go off to fight or remain at home. Personally, each of us is quite well off in this conflict, mental anguish aside.However, we’ve sacrificed much as a country.There are 3,248 U.S. military fatalities that have been confirmed by the Department of Defense and countless casualties. Each one of these deaths has shaken the lives of family and friends and each casualty has altered a life forever. We’re quickly learning that a growing number of soldiers are returning with post-traumatic stress disorder which has, in the history of warfare, gone severely undiagnosed, underreported, and insufficiently treated. Thousands more lives have been lost by non-military personnel, civilians working in Iraq in a variety of ways, whether it be driving a truck or working for a private security firm. These fatalities and casualties are mounting on a daily basis, climbing at staggering rates.We’ve lost the hope of Iraqis. While the flower-throwers that Donald Rumsfeld anticipated mostly stayed home during the liberation of their country, there was still a great sense of victory and hope for the future of Iraq back in 2003. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and had been deposed in a matter of weeks. The words “sectarian violence” had yet to be uttered on the news and pictures of Iraqi children smiling at soldiers dominated the airwaves, not the IED explosions and bombed-out marketplaces full of grieving Iraqis we see today. We’ve lost the hope of Iraqis and therefore we’ve lost Iraq. According to the latest ABC News poll, 51 percent of Iraqis believe that it is “acceptable” to attack U.S./coalition forces.We’ve lost the respect of the world. The administration has managed to take all the sympathy and support that was thrown at us from around the world on September 11 and mangle these alliances into a relationship of bitter discord. These other countries unanimously agree that terrorism must be stopped but fundamentally disagree with our approach towards bringing peace and stability to the Middle East. They see the war in Iraq as the ill-advised debacle that it is and resent the losses that they, too, have accrued.We’ve sacrificed the moral high-ground that we once held as a nation. We were once the ultimate symbol of freedom, liberty and justice. Our country was what the world wanted to be. Our government was something that we could be proud of, an achievement of civilization that stressed accountability, equality and rule by the people, for the people and of the people. Oh, how we mighty have fallen. We have stooped so low as to use torture as a primary tool in our attempts to garner intelligence from detainees. We export prisoners to ‘black sites’ run by the CIA which operate without Congressional oversight and send other detainees to allied countries where oversight does not exist and human rights are scoffed at.We’ve surrendered our principles to the Bush administration, allowing the war on terror to proceed without the hindrances of checks and balances, oversight and transparency, features of our democracy which were earned through the sacrifices of previous generations. Habeus corpus, one of the greatest inventions of civilization and one of the most fundamental of American rights, has been suspended for many detainees. We’ve now developed the hubris as a nation to imprison people indefinitely, without charge.Essentially, we’re still living the everyday American way of life. In that respect, al Qaeda has failed. However, America, the nation, is not sustaining the American values of life. We’ve never prided ourselves as a nation because of our constant supply of butter during wartime, our ability to artificially deflate gas prices, or our ability to banish the harsh realities of war to the 24-hour news cycle, and we shouldn’t start now. America is not tyranny and torture, hubris and hypocrisy, ignorance and ideology. America is the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the victory at D-Day, the “I Have A Dream” speech, the Bible, the Torah and the Koran.There’s a well-known picture on my wall of “the unknown rebel,” a solitary man blocking a column of Chinese tanks advancing towards the protests in Tiananmen Square. Against all odds, he stands in the face of glaring injustice and oppression. While the answer has historically been clear, we, as citizens of America, have to ask ourselves: are we the man, or are we the tank?

Will McAuliffe is a senior Political Science major with a serious love for the Colbert Report and Fox News. All letters of support, disdain or funny Backer experiences should be forwarded to his personal assistant at mcauliffe.4@nd.eduThe views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.