I’m a conservative. Have been for quite some time.
I debated the merits of Richard Nixon versus George McGovern at 14 years old. As it happens, that didn’t turn out so well (both the Nixon Administration and my adolescence).
When first able to vote, I did so in favor of Gerald Ford. And promptly fell down the stairs of the polling place (thank you, Chevy Chase, for giving me, and countless others, a punch line).
In every election since, I pulled the lever in favor of the Republican candidate. Even after George W. Bush’s shenanigans drove me away from the GOP, I still held views more closely aligned with the Right Wing than anything the party of the donkey had to offer.
I even held my nose and voted for the lesser of two evils in the 2008 presidential election. I felt-still do-that Barack Obama was the greater of two evils. Since that time, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that weasels from both political persuasions infest the halls of Congress.
So, it probably comes as no surprise that I supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (during which I lost two very good friends), I knew that Al-Qaeda must surely be destroyed. Also, I refused to believe Bush lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Like Clinton, he held to the opinion that Saddam Hussein presented a “clear and present danger” (to quote Tom Clancy) to the United States.
Fast forward nearly ten years. Hussein is dead and Al-Qaeda has been largely driven from Afghanistan.
Yet, thousands of American men and women are in harm’s way in those cesspools.
This past weekend, my family and I went to Virginia Beach (for those who didn’t pass Middle School Geography, it’s in Virginia) to see family, go to the beach, and escape the monsoons which struck the Lehigh Valley.
Like many other like-minded tourists, we sought a brief respite from our day-to-day lives. Time grows short because, before you know it, school will start again and 2011 will slide inexorably toward the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Somewhere between dolphin watching and shopping for frogs-smoking-cigars figurines, I noticed a whole lot of American flags flying half-mast. When I wondered why, I was told that they were in memory of the 30 Americans who were killed after their Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban.
That 22 of them were from SEAL Team Six, based in Virginia Beach, made it even more poignant.
It was made clear to me that the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia has shouldered more than their fair share of a conflict which now includes playing “whack-a-mole” with the lunatics in Libya.
To them, the wars are deadly real and not just something to glance over in the local paper before dinner. Before wondering whether Bert and Ernie are gay or if Two and a Half Men can survive without Charlie Sheen.
My companion offered her opinion that the United States should reinstitute the draft. When she caught the “are you crazy?” look on my face, she explained. If the sons and daughters of families who didn’t live in high military concentration areas were fighting and dying in two wars, you “could bet your bottom dollar” (it was a little harsher than that), we’d be out of those quagmires lickety-split (well, it was a little harsher than that, too).
I had to admit. She had a point.
According to the New York Times (a publication whose editorial stance on most issues makes my skin crawl), as of August 9th, 4,200 Americans have been killed in Iraq and 1,685 in Afghanistan.
Like I said, I’m a conservative, but my sympathy for the women and children of the Middle East stops when it comes to the women and children of the United States. So, I have to ask:
Why are we still there?