Tragic price of war
Gazette" -- -- PRINCETON University professor Ewe Reinhardt, an expert
on the cost of social systems, says most Americans are
unaware of the ugly price of the Iraq war.
In a Washington Post commentary titled “Who’s
Paying for Our Patriotism?” Dr. Reinhardt said the majority of
Americans are insulated from the human pain and financial
cost, thus it’s easy for them to back the war.
A maximum of 500,000 U.S. troops will go to Iraq or
Afghanistan, he says. If their families average 20
relatives, only 10 million Americans — out of 300 million
population — have a personal emotional stake in the
conflict. In other words, just 3 percent of U.S. families
live with fear that a son, daughter, nephew, niece or cousin
might be killed or maimed.
Similarly, Dr. Reinhardt wrote, Americans don’t feel
the $200 billion cost of the conflict, because Washington
has “financed the wars not with taxes but by borrowing
Thus shielded, great numbers of Americans are free to
show nationalistic support for the war, oblivious to the
harm involved. The professor says the public doesn’t
notice that U.S. troops were sent to Iraq without adequate
armor protection, doesn’t notice that “we offer a
pittance in disability pay to seriously wounded soldiers,”
and doesn’t notice that National Guard members suffer
financial loss while separated from their civilian jobs.
With mothers and fathers away in the war zone, Guard and
Reserve families in some states are getting charity help, he
noted. “Food pantries for American military families?”
The Princeton professor concluded:
“I am not at all impressed by people who resolve to
have others stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. At zero
sacrifice, who would not have that resolve?”
On the same day that Dr. Reinhardt’s essay was printed,
the Post featured a front-page report on a hotel beside
Walter Reed Army hospital, where mangled soldiers stay with
their families until they are strong enough to go home. The
report featured a teenage Nashville, Tenn., soldier, Lance
Cpl. Ryan Autery, who lost his left arm when his Humvee hit
a mine at Najaf, Iraq. His companion was killed.
Fitted with an artificial arm, Autery was shattered
emotionally by the experience. His worried mother stayed
nearly a year with him in the hotel, losing her job at home.
Autery had his dead companion’s name tattooed above a
cross on his arm.
The Autery family knows the terrible sacrifices involved
in the war. But the great majority of Americans, as the
Princeton professor noted, cannot realize the cost.
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