The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Losing Our Will

Losing Our Will

I wonder what the answers would be if each American asked himself or herself the question: “How is the war in Iraq helping me?”

While the U.S. government continues to pour precious human treasure
and vast financial resources into this ugly war without end, it is all
but ignoring deeply entrenched problems that are weakening the country
here at home.

On the same day that President Bush was announcing an indefinite
suspension of troop withdrawals from Iraq, the New York Times columnist
David Leonhardt was telling us a sad story about how the middle class
has fared during the Bush years.

The economic boom so highly touted by the president and his
supporters “was, for most Americans,” said Mr. Leonhardt, “nothing of
the sort.” Despite the sustained expansion of the past few years, the
middle class — for the first time on record — failed to grow with the

And now, of course, we’re sinking into a nasty recession.

The U.S., once the greatest can-do country on the planet, now can’t
seem to do anything right. The great middle class has maxed out its
credit cards and drained dangerous amounts of equity from family homes.
No one can seem to figure out how to generate the growth in good-paying
jobs that is the only legitimate way of putting strapped families back
on their feet.

The nation’s infrastructure is aging and in many places decrepit.
Rebuilding it would be an important source of job creation, but nothing
on the scale that is needed is in sight. To get a sense of how
important an issue this is, consider New Orleans.

The historian Douglas Brinkley, who lives in New Orleans, has
written: “What people didn’t yet fully comprehend was that the overall
disaster, the sinking of New Orleans, was a man-made debacle, resulting
from poorly designed levees and floodwalls.”

We could have saved the victims of the Hurricane Katrina
catastrophe, but we didn’t. And now, more than 2 ½ years after the
tragedy, we are still unable to lift the stricken city off its knees.

Other nations can provide health care for everyone. The United
States cannot. In an era in which a college degree is becoming a
prerequisite for a middle-class quality of life, we are having big
trouble getting our kids through high school. And despite being the
wealthiest of all nations, nearly 10 percent of Americans are resorting
to food stamps to maintain an adequate diet, and 4 in every 10 American
children are growing up in families that are poor or near-poor.

The U.S. seems almost paralyzed, mesmerized by Iraq and unable to
generate the energy or the will to handle the myriad problems festering
at home. The war will eventually cost a staggering $3 trillion or more,
according to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. When he
was asked on “Democracy Now!” about who is profiting from the war, he
said the two big gainers were the oil companies and the defense

This is the pathetic state of affairs in the U.S. as we approach the
end of the first decade of the 21st century. Whatever happened to the
dynamic country that flexed its muscles after World War II and gave us
the G.I. Bill, the Marshall Plan, the United Nations (in a quest for
peace, not war), the interstate highway system, the civil rights
movement, the women’s movement, the finest higher education system the
world has known, and a standard of living that was the envy of all?

America’s commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, and our
ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, went up to Capitol Hill this week
but were unable to give any real answers as to when the U.S. might be
able to disengage, or when a corner might be turned, or when a faint,
flickering hopeful light might be glimpsed at the end of the long,
horrific Iraqi tunnel.

A country that used to act like Babe Ruth now swings like a
minor-leaguer. The all-American can-do philosophy has been smothered by
the hapless can’t-do performances of the people who have been in charge
for the past several years. It’s both tragic and embarrassing.

The war in Iraq stands like a boulder in the road, blocking progress
on so many other important issues that are crucial to our viability as
a society. We’ve seen this before. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society,
which included the war on poverty, was crippled by the war in Vietnam.

On the evening of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was
assassinated, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went into Riverside
Church in Manhattan and said of the war in Vietnam: “This madness must

Forty-one years later, we can still hear the echo of Dr. King’s call. The only sane response is: “Amen.”


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