Tarawa


This was supposed to be a piece questioning the motives of those who marched in Washington last weekend. At best, they have a selective memory; at worst, they are representative of days past when the police set the dogs on the children in Birmingham, state troopers beat the marchers on the Edmund Pettis bridge outside Selma and a church with four little girls was bombed during Sunday services.

Let me first say that I am in agreement with them about the nature of government but probably for a whole different set of reasons. There is a limit to the size of any organization, be it a government in general, a government agency, or even something like a church.

When you do not know the people who are the beneficiaries of the work that you do, your organization may be too big. But if one were to ask me “how big is too big?” I am not sure that I would have an easy answer.

The problem for those who marched last weekend is that, at least from my viewpoint, they see any government as too big. It is one thing to cry out against big government and its associated cost but where were these people when the deficit was being run up during the previous administration’s watch? And what will many of these people do if they achieve their goal of no federal medical insurance program and they turn 65 and there is no Medicare, a government-run program?

What are they going to do when the water that they drink and the air that they breathe is so polluted that drinking the water or breathing the air poisons the body? How are they going to travel if there are no air traffic controllers to make sure that planes don’t crash into each other while taking off, landing, or going from point A to point B? It would be nice to know that our money is safe and protected as well.

And what will they do when we must contract out our military obligations to firms like Xe (formerly known as Blackwater)? Who will pay the contractors?

The cry of so many of the people in that march was that government was too big but what parts are they going to cut? For sure, the cries of the Republicans over the years have been to cut social programs but the two biggest bureaucracies in the government are the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. If there is waste in the Education Department, how much waste is in the Defense Department?

There has to be a government and it seems logical to me that it be a federal government. The whole rationale for the Constitution was that a confederation of states, independent in thought and mind, wouldn’t work. But if a government is to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, it must be responsive to the needs of the people.

In one sense, I agree with the protestors who marched last weekend. The government does not respond to the needs of the people. Whatever form the healthcare reform bill takes, it will be thousands of pages long and filled with paragraphs that will bedazzle and baffle even the most experienced legal scholar. And buried in the countless paragraphs will be money spent, not on healthcare reform, but on pet projects of representatives and senators, otherwise known as “pork” and all but designed to benefit political benefactors in their districts.

It is one thing to say that monies are needed in a district to fix the roads and repair the bridges. Lord knows, the road in front of my house could use some work and maybe, just maybe, with the money in the stimulus bill, it might get done. But no one on our street is a major campaign donor and there are some of us who have opposed some of the local politician’s pet projects, so I don’t think we will get the money any time soon.

And while these people are protesting any attempts to reform the healthcare process in this country, they are probably also calling for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. With the fighting in that country seemingly endless in nature and with the number of dead and wounded seeming to increase, it would only be logical to say that if I don’t care if someone lives or dies in this country because of illness, why should I care if they live or die in some far-off land. And we have already gone on the record that we really don’t care for our veterans when they come home.

It appears that there will be a report out this week (if it hasn’t already gone out) indicating that many of our military leaders wonder what our strategy, what our goal in Afghanistan is. It also appears that there will be some sort of report this week stating that we need to raise the number of troops in that part of the world. Those two points suggest Viet Nam all over again. But they also ask another question.

Where are they going to get the troops? We can forget the draft. If we were to reinstate the draft, it would have more and bigger loopholes than the ones presently in the tax code. So, we must recycle our troops, our strained and exhausted troops! It turns out that a tour in Iraq is different from a tour in Afghanistan, and you are not exempt from being sent to Afghanistan just because someone has done a tour or two or three in Iraq.

But what do we care? We are safe and sound at home as long as the fighting is somewhere else. I hope that those who are against any type of social programs in this country but want to send our troops overseas make sure that their sons and daughters are sent off to front-line duty. Let’s make sure though that they don’t get some sort of cushy jobs in Indiana or Alabama.

I truthfully pray that all our military personnel come home, safe and unharmed with no lingering effects from combat and scenes of death and destruction or watching their friends, buddies and comrades die.

But we, the people of this country, need to know that the policies of the last administration are still in place and no one will ever see the pictures of dead soldiers and marines killed in some far-off land. And there will be no one to welcome the bodies of those killed when they arrive at Dover Air Force Base at midnight. And no one responsible for sending those young men and women overseas will be there when the family has to bury their child and they receive the flag that draped the coffin and they receive the thanks from a grateful nation. It seems to me that such thanks are hollow thanks.

Why did I name this piece Tarawa? Because Tarawa was one of the first of many bloody engagements that would mark the war in the Pacific and the pictures of dead and dying Marines on the reefs of that island were so shocking that the War Department didn’t want them published. They didn’t want them published because to do so would be to show people what war was like. We tried to do the same thing with Viet Nam but when the bodies started coming home in increasing numbers it became impossible to deny the truth. But we have done so in Iraq and we have “sanitized” the war to make it safe. But war is not safe; war is not clean. War is too dangerous and too dirty for the truth of war to be hidden or kept from the people.

What I want is a government that can tell the truth to the people and the people will know that it is the truth; I don’t want my children or grandchildren fighting in a war in a far-off land for a cause that was invented and twisted and then long ago forgotten. I don’t want to worry that my wife or mother or I might have our healthcare cut off when we get sick because it will put a dent in some insurance companies profit margin.

I want a government that is of the people, for the people, and by the people. I want a government that cares for its people all of the time. What I want is a government that cares for its people, its healthy and its sick, its rich and its poor, its soldiers and its civilians.

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Cross-posted to RedBlueChristian

6 thoughts on “Tarawa

  1. When it comes to federal social programs, much of the protest stems from suspicion of and a basic lack of trust in the current administration and its supporters in congress. That same suspicion and lack of trust is the root from which stems the widespread protest and opposition that is being expressed against the current administrations effort to nationalize healthcare. Given the less than forthcoming statements made to facilitate the passages of legislation that would dramatically revamp healthcare delivery at the individual level, such suspicion and distrust are not surprising. And increasing majority of Americans lack confidence in the transparency of this administration and the explanations it offers regarding vague details of as yet incomplete legislation to nationalize healthcare.

    During the Second World War, support for the war plan of the administration was not uniform. Prior to Dec. 7, 1941, there were many creditable individuals who questions our involvement in Europe. After Dec. 7, many questions our delaying prosecution of operations in the Pacific to support operations in the ETO. In the instance of Tarawa as well as later actions, there were those who wanted to manage information and even withhold graphic details of the horror that was war in the Pacific. They were concerned that Americans would decide that the price in lives lost was to high a price to pay for victory in the Pacific. Now we are seeing exactly the same assumption as the administration and its supporters seek to manage and even limit information so as to facilitate their agenda of nationalizing healthcare. The administration and its supporters need to show plainly show Americans what exactly and precisely is being proposed. Let them make this presentation with the same explicit clarity as those black and white photographs that showed in blunt detail the exact cost of victory in the Pacific. Then let Americans make up their own minds. After all, they are the ones who will have to pay the price.

  2. The lack of providing information is not limited to just the present administration. Sadly, when it comes to Afghanistan, the present administration is maintaining the same policy as the previous administration with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    As to the healthcare, I will agree that there is a lack of clarity in what the present administration wishes to do. But those who oppose the administration efforts could go a long way if their information and rhetoric wasn’t twisted and convoluted.

  3. The merits of the Bush administration are not under consideration. The current administration came into office loudly declaring that it would be marked by a transparency in its policies and procedures. The subject at hand is the proposal by which the current administration seeks to nationalize healthcare in America. At least some if not a majority of the current meltdown of support for its proposal is directly attributable to failure of this current administration to consistently speak with integrity and clarity to this issue. This failure on the part of the administration does not excuse what some see as opportunistic or less than honest statements by those opposed to that proposal. However what some seize upon as opportunistic or a lack of honesty on the part of those opposed to its efforts to nationalize healthcare is no justification for the administration and its supporters to excuse or even embrace the smoke and fog of obscurity as a political tool by which to effect a policy of socialization that is antithetical to our nation.

  4. The merits of the previous administration are part of the discussion. We are in a war in Afghanistan and we are still in Iraq because of what that administration said and did not say. The cost of that war is going to be a part of this generation and generations to come.

    I am not saying that the present administration is correct in their approach; in fact, they have handled this very badly.

    I am not certain what will come out of the present administration’s effort to reform healthcare. But I do think that what will probably come out will do little to help the people of this country. And like I said, I want a government that cares for the people, all of the people. Right now, it doesn’t and the previous administration didn’t either.

  5. The issue of combat operations in Afghanistan has no logical connection with efforts to nationalize healthcare in the United States. Defense operations legitimately arise from Constitutional mandate. There is no such mandate in the Constitution for the nationalization of healthcare.

    The sometimes shoddy treatment of veterans returning home from overseas assignments is historic. Kipling noted the exact same lack of appreciation and provision of care that has so recently been the subject of newspaper exposes.

    That military leaders would have questions about strategic objectives in Afghanistan is understandable. The current administration entered office declaring it would exit both Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, only limited steps have been taken to leave Iraq. At this time U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan are being increased commensurate with what appears to be a long term commitment. If the strategy and tactics are dictated by tentative calculated political considerations, it may very well be that the current administration may find itself in the midst of a quagmire similar to that which resulted from Johnson’s less than inspired micromanagement of the Vietnam War.

    Given that the current administration needs more troops, let them do what Rangel suggest and re-institute the draft. If there is concern about loopholes, then simply require that without exception all persons be required to complete a term of service in the armed forces before they would be permitted to pursue either college, technical training or full-time employment. Let there be no exceptions made for those well-born, the intellectually or athletically gifted or even those who might object due to conscience, etc. More than anything else, that might just be what was needed to bring about a serious discussion of not only the current war but of our nation’s defense posture and our armed forces deployment both at home and abroad.

    So far the present administration has not lived up to the expectations of those who voted for change in Washington. Hopefully that will not be the pattern for the next three years.

    Taking a cue from Darwin, what we may be observing in the current debate on administration efforts to nationalize healthcare is simply the eliminating of less competitive, less compelling approaches. Given time there is the possibility that a good result may be reached. But trying to rush the current proposal through bodes ill for all concerned.

  6. Perhaps there is no logical connection between the healthcare debate and what is happening in Afghanistan. But people will die here and there and death seems to be a logical connection. We should have healthcare and we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan.

    The arguments against healthcare and for Afghanistan both seem to put too little a price on human life and well-being.

    Let’s focus on people and making sure that everyone has the opportunity. Right now, it seems to me that we are focusing on money. You will probably tell me that everyone has the right to decide how to spend their money and you won’t get any argument from me on that point. But when there are people who have no health insurance and the health insurance companies are cutting people from their roles to lower costs, it sounds to me that we have our priorities absolutely backwards.

    A government for the people, of the people should not be conditional on the size of their checkbook. And, as you said, if we are going to forget our veterans when they get back, why should we even send them in the first place?

    Let’s focue on the people for a change.

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