Whenever I have picked up a copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer in the last year, I have consistently seen the same two types of stories. The first type usually involves the words “West Bank” or “Gaza Strip,” and has something to do with a suicide bomber attack in Israeli, or an air strike on the Palestinians. The second type of story is the one that hits much closer to home, and the one I want to talk about.
You have probably seen it after just walking by a newsstand. The headline will read “[insert number] U.S. soldiers die in Iraq,” often followed by a steadily rising casualty count. This story has become so commonplace that sometimes I do not even notice that is a little disturbing. What is the war turning into?
Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia was the second senator last week, after Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, to claim that the situation in Iraq is beginning to resemble the Vietnam War. Republicans like Sen. John McCain of Arizona quickly rushed to defend President Bush, but I tend to agree with the Democrats on this one.
Let’s look at some basic figures. More than 600 soldiers have died, and more than 3,000 have been injured. About $121 billion has been spent to finance the war. Those numbers alone are enough to boggle my mind. The government is sacrificing lives and spending billions on a war where one of the main reasons supporting the effort has been pretty much proven bogus.
Sen. McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a POW, defended Bush, saying that Iraq is different. He told Congress “we have the capability militarily and politically to prevail.” That’s what the government told the American people about Vietnam too. From a military standpoint, we saw last week that the fighting can get worse, and soldiers are still dying. From a political point of view, senior Democratic senators are speaking out against the war, and Bush’s approval rating continues to drop.
Sen. Byrd suggested Bush should be “working toward an exit strategy….” Although I agree with the comparison of Iraq to Vietnam, I do not agree with this. As McCain said, “If we fail and cut and run, the results could be disastrous.” And I think he is right.
To back out now would mean that all the soldiers who died would have given their lives for nothing. This is especially true if, and some would say when, someone worse than Saddam Hussein takes charge of Iraq. To apply Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor for slavery in a different light, we essentially have the wolf by the ears. Whether we back out or stay, it will not be easy. The least we can hope for is to accomplish something positive while we are there.
Every day the death toll rises in the newspapers. It is up to President Bush to act with the interest of American people in mind. It is up to the American people to make sure he knows exactly what that interest is.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.