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Greetings. This is the first installment of what I hope will be a very regular blog from yours truly. I am in the middle of attending a two session social networking workshop and was told in no uncertain terms that I/we must blog. One of the great things about WPSR is that we have a number of priority issues and at any given time something is happening in one of those areas. For our first WPSR blog, I will write about something that I feel very strongly about; from time to time I will ask others to contribute to this blog and hope that over the course of time this develops as a platform where a regular conversation occurs, both between me/us and you and also between you and you.
At our Annual Dinner last week, unembedded journalist Dahr Jamail spoke about the health consequences of war. As we enter the 8th year of an occupation of Afghanistan, his talk was timely and cause for reflection. Dahr cited statistics about suicides and he talked about the consequences deployments and repeated deployments are having on vets themselves as well as their families. Between Iraq and Afghanistan, officially 5,207 casualties have been counted as of 3 October 2009 (according to icasualties.org). Many times this number have been physically injured and it is estimated that 30% of returning vets will face mental health problems.
From what I can tell, over 1.5 million troops have served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom. While 1.5 million out of a population of 300 million may not seem like a lot, when one begins to consider the personal network which surrounds every veteran, the numbers begin to add up. When one considers that today there are 26 million veterans in the US, again the numbers add up. The trauma of combat runs deep for both the veteran and his or her network and the number of those affected is growing exponentially as we continue to wage war on two fronts, thousands of miles away.
I am a veteran. I served in the US Army from 2003 – 2004. I enlisted because I wanted to serve and I believed that serving my country in this manner was honorable and that I would be contributing to something good and noble. I did not deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. I never had to fire my weapon in a life or death situation. I never had to watch one of my battle buddies take fire or worse. I never had to make a decision that would ultimately cost the lives of human beings. But I know hundreds of men and women who have had to see and do and live these scenarios and I recognize that our continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan will mean that increasing numbers of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, will have to cope with the devastating and lifelong suffering that is combat. What is truly tragic is that all of this is unnecessary; our leaders are jeopardizing the futures of countless Americans in a conquest that has no reason and serves no greater purpose.
Those who know me well know that upon President Obama’s election I stated I was cautiously optimistic about what was to come. I remain so, but I am definitely not as optimistic as I was one year ago in terms of our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past year my feeling is that Americans have sat back down on their couches, turned on their televisions and turned off the real world. With this, what is Obama to think? It seems to me that he can only surmise he is doing ok and that we support what he is doing. My question to you is, are you satisfied? Do you really want to see the US maintain the status quo in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are you content with the knowledge that millions of American (and Iraqi and Afghani) lives are being devastated by our occupations of these countries?
If your answer is no, I beg you to do something about this for the sake of the future of this country (and indeed, for tens of millions of Iraqis and Afghanis). The burden rests on our shoulders to tell President Obama that the status quo is unsatisfactory. We must demand he bring the troops home.
This Wednesday, October 7th, marks the anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Actions are planned throughout the US. In Seattle, those opposed to this continued occupation will rally at 23rd & Jackson at 5 pm. The time has come again. Please get off your couch and turn off your television. Lives are stake.
In peace, Cherie