Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Invisible to Most

Earlier this month, MFSO was part of launching a new “Cost of War” sign in Rochester, NY. This is part of a growing effort to raise awareness about the financial costs of war. But we military families never forget the human costs of war, as it is our families that bear them. For more information on our True Costs of War campaign, go here.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars invisible to most

Mark Hare, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
November 16, 2010

A few dozen veterans gathered with friends and family in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality last Thursday to mark the observation of Veterans Day with a solemn reading of the names of New Yorkers who have lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflictss.

When they were done, they plugged in a borrowed “Cost of the War” electronic sign that will travel to several locations around Rochester over the next few weeks. Three messages scroll across the screen: “160,000
veterans are homeless tonight; 18 veterans commit suicide every day; all veterans need our support.”

The reading was organized by the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 23, who were joined by the local chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Families Speak Out (against war) and the MK Gandhi
Center for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester.

“We just had an election and the war never came up for discussion,” said Paul Meagher of Rochester, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran who repaired Navy planes and radar. The troops today, he said, “are in a state of
perpetual deployment,” going back again and again to the war zone.

The Iraq combat vets Jim Bloom knows “are not doing too well,” says the 27-year-old Rochesterian, who served as a Navy corpsman in Iraq in 2004-05. “They don’t get the mental health services they need.”

Asked about his own health, Bloom said, “I have my days. I don’t really sleep.” He takes prescription muscle relaxants, he says, to keep him from “grinding my teeth so much that my eardrums become inverted.”

More than 4,400 service men and women have died in Iraq; more than 1,300 more have died in Afghanistan. Somewhere near 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq alone. The cost of the wars has already topped $1 trillion; caring for the physical and psychological injuries to veterans could cost another trillion.

Despite all the years of bravado about a war on terrorism and preserving American freedom, I have no idea what “victory” would look like in either place.

The best, maybe the only, way to end these wars and protect America against future misadventures, is to reinstate the draft, said Jim Swarts, an ordained Episcopalian priest who teaches history at the State
University College at Geneseo. “A draft would bring in the middle class,” he said, “and provide a balance, a different point of view.”

I spent my youth protesting the Vietnam War and the draft that conscripted so many of my generation into the meat grinder. As the father of two sons of prime military age, I can barely imagine calling for its reinstatement. But these wars are invisible, paid for with credit cards, waged largely off the TV screen, inflicting death and trauma on a tiny segment of our population — on beautiful young men and
women who will never recover from three and four and five tours in combat. The conflict drags on because most Americans have no stake in it.

There is no guarantee that a draft — with Vietnam-era exemptions for students, and those who know how to work the system — would be any fairer today. But without a draft, our leaders have been free to wage undeclared wars with no clear purpose, but with no consequences — except for those forced to fight them.