Richard Stern, now Helen A. Regenstein Professor Emeritus in English Languages and Literature at the University of Chicago, tells a truth about war that most of us aren’t old enough to remember:
“Like almost every boy in my class [during World War II], I did such things as collected and rolled tin foil into supposedly usable balls and when in the country, had a small “victory garden” where I raised a few radishes. My mother rolled bandages down at the Red Cross. My uncles were either in war-related businesses (the silk business which was involved in parachute making) or volunteering their time at the Office of Price Administration. Uniforms were everywhere, the trains were packed with soldiers, the stations tense with heartrending farewells. Everyone you knew was somehow connected with the war: Your cousins were fighting in North Africa, Sicily, the Pacific; your friends’ older brothers and parents were far away and mailing the thin blue email letters back home. Almost everyone followed the day’s battleground events, charted the progress or retreats on the map, knew the casualty figures, cheered and booed the political leaders in the newsreels. Total war.
“Today, the war is something on the television news, the occasional press conferences, the newspapers. Few are in uniform. I know no one fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan . . . . In World War II, President Roosevelt’s sons were in the army. Indeed, 18-year-old G. H.W. Bush volunteered as a pilot and postponed his life at Yale. Is there anyone in his son’s large family serving in the military?”
Read the whole thing at Open University.
The “war on terror” isn’t a struggle for national survival — as NPR Check points out, it’s a way to put the country on a permanent war footing and thereby to turn the constitutionally limited office of president an omnipotent Commander in Chief. If this had been a real war, the president would have publicly asked his wealthy constituents to sacrifice their tax cuts as his nonwealthy constituents are giving their lives — and he would have continued to receive the bipartisan support he briefly enjoyed after the 9/11 disaster.