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"The Rest of Us Have Been Given a Pass"

This column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times says more eloquently than I could how I feel about the Bush Administration's handling of the war in Iraq right now:

Last week the Army had to make the embarrassing disclosure that it did not have enough troops available to replenish the forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. So in addition to extending the deployment of many of the troops already in the war zones, the Army announced that it would prevent soldiers from leaving the service -- even if their voluntary enlistments were up -- if their units were scheduled to go to Iraq or Afghanistan...

In any event, the Army is so over-extended, stretched so dangerously thin, that most knowledgeable observers, whatever their take on the war in Iraq, have described the stop-loss policy as inevitable...

The stop-loss policy is the latest illustration of both the danger and the fundamental unfairness embedded in the president's "what, me worry?" approach to the war in Iraq. Almost the entire burden of the war has been loaded onto the backs of a brave but tiny segment of the population -- the men and women, most of them from working-class families, who enlisted in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, from patriotism to a desire to further their education to the need for a job.

They never expected that the failure of their country to pay for an army of sufficient size would result in their being trapped in a war zone with the exit doors locked when their enlistments were up.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have been given a pass. The president has not asked us to share in the sacrifice and we haven't demanded the opportunity to do so. We're not even paying for the war. It's being put on credit cards issued in the names of future generations.

For America's privileged classes, this is the most comfortable war imaginable. There's something utterly surreal about a government cutting taxes and bragging about an economic boom while at the same time refusing to provide the forces necessary to relieve troops who are fighting and dying overseas.

We should stop the madness. A president who is sending troops into the crucible of combat has an obligation to support them fully and treat them fairly...

Mr. Bush has always been quick to characterize himself as a wartime president. But he's never been candid about the true costs of war, about the terrible suffering and extreme sacrifices that wars always demand.


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