I returned home tonight to news that an Army major and psychiatrist at Fort Hood had shot and killed 11 soldiers and had wounded 31 others before being shot dead himself. There will be much discussion over the next week about the stress our soldiers are under, how frequently they are deployed and what a difficult time they are having re-adjusting to civilian life. And then will everything settle down again, a new story for the media and our momentarily heightened consciousness of the insanity of these wars sinking back into our everyday reality? God, I hope not.
The great majority of us in this country want these wars to end-- that's at least part of the reason so many voted for Barack Obama. So why the hell isn't it happening? Instead, Obama contemplates sending more men and women-- our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters-- to Afghanistan.
Eight years of war. More than 5,000 troops killed. Hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. And nothing to show for it. Weren't we supposed to be after the terrorists who attacked us on September 11? Why wasn't this treated as a criminal matter instead of dragging the nation into war?
I know it's hard to keep the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the forefront of our minds when so many of us are struggling just to make ends meet. Not long ago General David Grange said that the military is at war but the nation is not. I beg to differ. The cost of both wars is approaching $1 trillion and I can only begin to imagine the number of small businesses that could have stayed open and the jobs that could have been saved with that money.
Are we really committed to a war on terror? If so, there are better ways to do it. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff made some interesting calculations last month: for the cost of a single soldier in Afghanistan for a year, we could build twenty schools. Educated people are essential for a free society, and if we'd started building schools in Afghanistan eight years ago, we could pretty much guarantee the creation of an extremism-free generation.
So what are we to do? MoveOn, once a key leader in the anti-war movement, seems to have moved on to health care. United for Peace and Justice is urging us to take action both before and after Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan, as if such action is inevitable. Only A.N.S.W.E.R. is calling for national days of action and mobilization, on March 19 and 20th.
I'm a community organizer, but right now I just don't know how we can get enough power to enforce our common will on the government of this country. I do know that on November 13th, at 3 p.m, a march against the war will start at Arise for Social Justice, 467 State St., Springfield ,Masasachusetts, before heading down to the steps of City Hall. And tomorrow at noon I'm going to stand on the corner of State and Federal Streets and say, Enough of this stupid war. If you're in town, come join me. It may not be much, but it's better than remaining silent.