Circleville Herald August 1, 2009

 A Heartbreaking Up-date

America reached a heartbreaking “milestone” in July.  More than 5,000 Americans have now died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Our nation’s involvement in Afghanistan has lasted three years longer than America’s participation in World Wars I and II combined. (WW I: 19 months; WW II: 33 months; Afghanistan: 88 months, so far.)

Our military presence in Afghanistan has recently increased to 62,000.  Most NATO Alliance countries also have troops in Afghanistan.  In spite of these facts, a comparatively tiny number of entrenched insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains fanatically dedicated to destroying the most revered achievements of Western Civilization.  Meanwhile, 130,000 American combat troops remain in Iraq.

“Costs of war” must be measured not only in troop and civilian casualty statistics -- tragic and mounting though they be.  Funding for programs essential to civilization - health care, scholarships, infrastructure, and schools - must be reduced or eliminated because America spends $800 million each day to fight wars.

Although not a Quaker myself, I am grateful that a local group of Friends annually alerts Roundtowners to these “hidden costs of war.”  The Quakers’ “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit, held each autumn in front of the Pickaway County Courthouse, displays of a pair of boots for every Ohioan killed in the Iraq War.  The boots honor each of the fallen by name, including a photo, military rank, and hometown.  With banners and leaflets appealing to our sensibility and intelligence, the exhibit reminds us poignantly of war‘s “costs,” and it challenges us to find alternatives to violence in every aspect of civilized living.  “Eyes Wide Open” will be presented again during the last weekend in September.

Eighty-eight months have passed since American and NATO troops invaded Afghanistan.  No end to the war - and no end to the costs of warring - is in sight. 

For almost four hundred years, peace-seeking Quakers have taught that war is neither ethical, nor effective, nor practical.  Does Western Civilization’s hugely violent history not teach similar lessons?



                                        Tom Kirdas 

                                        Clarksburg, OH 43115