t r u t h o u t | 01.22
Calling a Time Out
Thursday 22 January 2009
by: George McGovern, The
As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put
True, the United States is the world's greatest power - but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into
It is logical to conclude that our massive military dominance and supposedly good motives should let us work our will in
I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East - our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel - that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from
We cannot evade this reckoning. The British thought they could extend their control over
In 2003, the Bush administration ordered an invasion of
Mr. President, the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has estimated that the war in
I'm aware that some of my fellow Americans regard me as too idealistic. But sometimes idealism is the best realism. And at a minimum, realism and idealism need not be contradictory. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has not only angered Iraqis who have lost family members, neighbors or homes; it has also increased the level of anger throughout the Muslim world and thrown up obstacles to our political leadership in that deeply important part of the planet.
Like you, Mr. President, I don't oppose all wars. I risked my life in World War II to protect our country against genuine danger. But it is the vivid memory of my fellow airmen being shot out of the sky on all sides of me in a war that I believe we had to fight that makes me cautious about sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God.
As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war - unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?
During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in
Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don't think so. It's food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare's cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can't wait.
George McGovern, a former senator from
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