A guest commentary I submitted (see http://vfpchapter099wnc.blogspot.com/) to the Mountain Xpress in response to the March 3 article, "Asheville-based National Guard Unit Heads to Iraq," was rejected because it wasn't about a local issue. The editors, however, graciously suggested I write a letter.
We keep sending young people off to war. We do this because our leaders tell us this is necessary for our security. Leaders say, "war"; young folks go off. No questions.
We even ritualize it. We have ceremonies, such as the one reported by the Xpress, where we say goodbye to loved ones and send them off to war. Evidence of the ritual nature of this event is that it took place at a Christian church. (I personally have a difficult time reconciling Jesus' teachings with sending troops off to war, but so it goes.)
The article told of the hardships our local folks will endure as family members go overseas to a war zone. Are these noble sacrifices that our friends and neighbors are making worth it? Are Americans any safer now?
Many experts think not. They claim that we are viewed as aggressors and that our actions, especially the killing and wounding of civilians ("collateral damage") are the best recruiting tool a terrorist could hope for. Further, polls indicate that most Americans think we made a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place and that most Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan.
Then consider the costs. Since 2001, Americans have spent almost a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan. This works out to about $12,000 for a family of four. Our 11th Congressional District has spent $1.9 billion — and Heath Shuler, our fiscally conservative representative, keeps voting to fund the wars.
Consider the human costs. The separation of loved ones destined for war zones is bad enough. But our soldiers often return with debilitating physical and psychological injuries including post traumatic stress disorder, injuries that will affect the quality of the rest of their lives. And some don't return at all.
Many local folks believe that we can best serve the cause of national security and honor our dedicated National Guard personnel by ending the war; that we would be much more secure if that $1.9 billion went to fund health care, new jobs and alternative energy; and that our National Guard folks should be home with their families ready to respond to local emergencies and natural disasters when citizens are endangered.
The WNC chapter of Veterans For Peace (and its friends) have been holding a weekly peace vigil at Pack Square since 2003. Thousands of motorists have driven past, honking for peace.
At noon on Saturday, March 20, at Pritchard Park, Peacetown (a project of VFP 099 that brings nonveterans together to work for peace) will hold a different kind of ceremony to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq: a call for peace.
Wars will end when we quit sending people to war.
— Kim Carlyle
VFP Chapter 099 president