Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day - A Reality Check

If Americans were exposed to the real cost of the Iraq invasion in human lives -- the civilians (difficult to calculate) as well as the soldiers (remarkably accurate) -- the public outcry would have ended the war years ago.  Instead, the media gives us highly sanitized, government approved, jingoistic images that have lulled us over the years into condoning what former President George Bush described as early as 2008 as "the biggest regret of all the presidency". Interestingly, in a 2010 memoir, he felt no need to apologize, although he couldn't rid himself of a sickening feeling in his gut whenever he thought about it.

No one seems to be paying attention to the fact that the war cost $2 trillion dollars -- and that figure could easily triple in the oncoming years.

As of 2009, the Pentagon will allow photos of military casualties with permission from their respective families. That doesn't make sense to me. Once someone joins the military, they quite literally belong to the government -- even when they are deceased, at the point of return. That point of return translates to thousands of caskets, draped with the American flag, coming off of those planes. War photography brought the reality of the Civil War into the conscience of the nation at a time when the medium was new and certainly untried in battle.  World War II was splayed out starkly, in black and white, while Vietnam was in technicolor, full on. We saw everything: civilians, officials, dead bodies riddled with bullets, battle-scarred children and babies, government tribunals, you name it. Where are our generations visuals for the wars we have fought -- for Afghanistan, for Iraq?

I'm convinced that photography could change the outcome of any war, if the powers that be were to sanction it.

As our former president searches for a way to defend the indefensible and everyone else gathers their apologies, their explanations or their standard issue mea culpa for the sake of posterity, there are some important lessons in all of this that shouldn't be missed.  Lessons like question authority, don't stop thinking critically and don't assume that the experts aren't infallible.  Those are lessons for all of us.

There are some who believe that former President Bush and several key members of his administration should be tried for war crimes against humanity -- 269 war crimes, to be exact. There are some who have already convicted him of those crimes -- and Tony Blair, too.  The whole world is watching, even if we aren't paying attention. That alone should go a long way towards explaining why so many nations refuse to hold America in such high regard.  They're getting the full story. We're getting FOX News.

In the meantime, it's our soldiers -- and their families -- who pay the ultimate price.

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