My nephew, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, pointed out to me in the course of an interesting and quite enjoyable discussion not long ago that the government knows things that I do not know. His point is quite valid, as is his implication that I owe a certain amount of trust to my government, recognizing that I do not know all of the facts.
As a citizen, given the vote and charged with the responsibility of electing those who are to govern this country, I am obliged to utilize the facts that are available to me to form opinions as to what course of action I believe my country should take and whom I believe is best qualified to lead. If I form the wrong opinion because I have been given too few facts, or because I have been given the wrong facts, then that is a failure of leadership.
In a dictatorship, monarchy or oligarchy the government determines a course of action and imposes it on the population. In our representative democracy the leadership determines a course of action in the short term, but the people determine the leadership and in so doing are the long term determinant of policy. For that reason, open government and an abundant disclosure of information is essential. Our government cannot simply say, “We are going to do this and we cannot tell you why.”
A time is coming when I must vote for those who will continue the war in Iraq or those who will end it. It is no longer important why we began the war, except insofar as it explains why we must continue to fight it, and that is the question that I need answered in order to cast my vote. Why are we now fighting that war?
First I was told the purpose was to remove weapons of mass destruction which, if ever there, were never found. Then the reason was to remove an evil dictator. Then it was to install democracy. Now we are fighting against Al Queda. I cannot help but wonder why we need four different answers for a single question.
I am told that if we leave then this horrible thing will happen, then that horrible thing will happen, followed by the next horrible thing. I am not gifted with these politicians’ ability to foretell future events, so I do not know what will happen if we leave. I do know that everything that has been foretold about the adventure in Iraq has been wildly wrong, so I’m not sanguine about these forecasts either.
I do know that “they will follow us home” is bogus on the face of it. Al Queda’s weapon is terrorist attack and if they want to perpetrate such an attack in this country there is absolutely nothing about the war in Iraq that will deter or hinder them from doing so.
This war is costing lives. Our young men and women are going repeatedly to a distant and hostile land and placing their lives at risk. They are losing their lives and they and their families are suffering horribly. If that is the price of freedom, then so be it. It is a price they have agreed to pay and it is a price this nation has paid before and doubtless will pay again. But it is the sacred duty of this nation’s leadership and its voters to assure that not one soldier, not one single volunteered young life is lost without absolute need.
But there are things I do not know and I am left somewhat in doubt.
In the absence of sufficient facts, I look to a saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.”
The actions of this leadership provide such a disconnect from their words that I simply cannot conclude that the war in Iraq is worth the lives and treasure that it is costing this nation. This is not an absence of facts. This is self-evident.
If this war is worthy of the lives of our sons and daughters, then it requires the commitment of the nation. It requires a national “call to arms” by our leadership. It requires the mobilization of our industry. It requires the commitment of our financial sector. All of these are dramatically notable by their absence.
And so of our leaders I demand: If the safety of this nation depends on this war, as you claim it does, then you must commit this nation to the effort. If it does not justify that commitment then you are wasting precious lives with your egos and you are monsters.
Either commit the nation to this war, or get our men and women out.