By Bobby Hanafin STAFF WRITER/Veterans Issues Editor
This video was sent to me via my membership in Dryhootch.
After watching this video on a public forum (or town hall meeting) to question, discuss, and answer the host’s and audience questions on the social, economic, and human impact of the wars on the state of Wisconsin , several thoughts came to mind:
– If our politicians and mainstream media are not going to educate and encourage open debate and discussion within the American public toward the costs of the wars and continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, then there remains a dire need for such local public forums in every state.
– Such much needed public forums can be established on college campuses, public radio and TV programs, local media networks, local cable networks, and of course independent media not beholding to any special interest or corporate influence over what can be aired.
– Not only the Peace Movement, but fiscal conservative, and libertarian groups can organize and promote such public forums in each community and encourage public and independent media to cover them.
– It is an understatement to say that the political discourse and mainstream media coverage of the wars has been and will remain under the radar for political expediency, public apathy, and corporate sponsorship and ownership to keep discussion and debate over the impact of wars on a state’s economy, morality, and health of returning troops (especially National Guard troops and families) after two to four (or more) combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though we at Veterans Today may not agree with every position taken in this public forum, we commend the various folks in Wisconsin who organized the question, answer, and discussion of the wars on their state for having the courage to hold such discourse.
The 4th Street Forum, and the PBS station MPTV Milwaukee Public Television should be PROUD of themselves for having set an outstanding educational public policy panel discussion plus question and answer session for the general public in Wisconsin that sets an example and standard for other state’s to follow.
I am posting a few spoilers on the program that ARE NOT exact quotes or a transcript of what exact questions were asked, or complete responses from the three panelist.
I leave most of the public exchange focused only on a few hard questions that need answers in every state, but especially those states where the impact of multiple deployments on their National Guard and Guard families is unthinkable.
As one panelist put it, Wisconsin has but one active duty base in the state (Fort McCoy), compared to some states like Colorado that have five or more active duty bases, so the state’s National Guard units have paid a heavy price in deployment stress, and transition back into civilian life and work places a bit different from our active Regular forces.
The only fault that I could find with the overall discussion is the lack of focus on the heavy price paid by innocent Iraq and Afghanistan civilians in not only in casualties but destruction of their countries as cities, towns and villages are turned into rubble. The actual body count for Iraq and Afghanistan civilians most likely far surpasses our American GI wounded and killed.
I can only say that given the apathy of the American people towards our own stressed out troops, families, number killed, and wounded that most American cannot relate to, it would be unrealistic to expect the American public to be concerned about the thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians caught in the cross fire or collateral damage from unmanned drone attacks.
Regardless this forum and venue is a GIANT first step toward dealing with the apathy of the American people, mainstream media, and our politicians who collectively give lip service to Supporting Our Troops as they conveniently ignore our troops and military families WARS.
I have uploaded a copy of the video in .avi video format, so readers should be able to download and play it in Window’s Media Player.
ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Issues Editor, Veterans Today News
WISCONSIN AND AMERICA’S WARS
[Original Airdate: January 14, 2011] For many, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just background noise. But almost six thousand Americans have died. The [fiscal] cost exceeds one trillion dollars.
Are we winning?
What have we learned about American power on the international stage?
These are only two of several very hard questions asked by the host ENRIQUE FIGUEROA, PhD, Director, Roberto Hernández Center, University of Wisconsin (UW) – Milwaukee and with guests, in order of appearance:
ROB RICIGLIANO, JD, Director, Institute of World Affairs, UW-Milwaukee, Former Assistant Director, Harvard Negotiation Project;
ALISON LIGHTHALL, RN, MSN, Clinical Director, [the Veterans organization] Dryhootch of America, Former Captain, Army Nurse Corps; and ART CYR, PhD, Director, Clausen Center for World Business, A.W. and Mary Clausen Professor of Political Economy and World Business, Carthage College of Kenosha, Former Vice President of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Member of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.
VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL COMMENT: I wish to highlight again that these ARE NOT direct quotes, or transcripts of the program, I just did my best to take notes from the video. I also feel that the details I do provide are intended to avoid taking anyone out of context. Lastly, I do not wish to give away the bulk of the video content despite the use of a few spoilers. My intent is to encourage people to view the video and come to your own conclusions.
In addition to my downloaded video in .avi format, here are two links for viewing the video at the source”
My recollections of what was discussed:
Host Dr. Enrique Figueroa, UW-Milwaukee:
America is at War, [however] this time of domestic insecurity attention to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has faded unless of course you are in the military or have a love one directly involved in the conflict.
The War in Afghanistan began in 2001, and is now the longest running war in U.S. History. Two years later the U.S. invaded Iraq.
[Show slides on how much the wars have COST in dollars and American lives. Herein is the lack of focus on the tremendous cost to Iraqi and Afghan civilians]
The U.S. Economy and Wars
At a cost of 1 trillion dollars, it is money spent far from home, when we are struggling with severe domestic economic problems. Some of us have asked what our domestic economy would have looked like had we spent some of that money here at home.
For many, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just background noise. There are a lot of questions that have not been the focus of our elected officials or mainstream media.
Let’s start by asking this question of our panel:
What impact has the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had on us the [American] people and the economy?
ROB RICIGLIANO, UW-Milwaukee:
It’s a loaded question, I want to first talk about how we never talk about only costs when we make these kinds of analysis on decisions.
It is good to talk about the costs and benefits, for costs are easy to quantify.
We need to talk about the harder to quantify cost.
Example: What is the cost to U.S. image and standing in the world [international community] externally?
The cost of fighting wars as we try to pursue other foreign policy interest in the Middle East [such as the Israeli-Palestinian situation–or Asia [with the Korean situation], and so on [Iran and China comes to mind]?
The most important [unquantifiable cost] is the fact of being at war for 10 years has had on the national discourse? Example that comes to mind is the weapons of violence used in the shooting in Tucson, AZ.
When you are fighting a war where the [belief is that] there are causes worth fighting and dying for, unfortunately that metaphor gets translated into other [domestic public] policy issues so that things like Health Care become issues of not just good policy or bad policy, but the notion that [some Americans serious believe that] the Health Care debate is a threat to you to your country, when people begin talking in those [metaphoric] terms maybe people talking in those terms begin saying to themselves, ‘Hey maybe [resistance to socialized medicine] in the Health Care debate is something worth killing and dying for.
It [national discourse] then is not just [about] war and peace issues but [heated passion about] things like Health Care and the role of the Federal government.
And that’s when we [the American people] really start losing our way. I think the cost [impact on the direction of national discourse] is hard to quantify but it has to be assessed.
Something to think about is what the future holds for these two wars.
ALISON LIGHTHALL, RN, MSN, Clinical Director, Dryhootch of America, Former Captain, Army Nurse Corps:
It’s interesting for I too think in terms of cost and benefits.
The primary cost I look at from a nursing perspective, from a psychiatric perspective is cost to the individuals and the families and in the fabric of the community, and the fabric of course of society as a whole in the United States.
We can talk about the impact, well these guys can talk about the impact globally.
Our situation in Wisconsin is quite different than it is for [some] other states.
We have one active duty post Fort McCoy, but the rest of the [military deployment burden of the] state is mostly National Guard and Reserve units.
Deployed to a war zone not just once but possibly two, three, or four times, which was unthinkable in any previous conflict.
For example, I just came back from Fort Carson, CO and everybody is active duty, [Colorado has] five active duty posts, so here in Wisconsin we are looking at the way in which an ordinary citizen who is part of the Guard and Reserve then gets pulled out of an ordinary life and into war not just once but possibly two, three, four deployments which was unthinkable in any previous conflict.
[The impact of multiple combat deployments] and trying to come back into one’s family, trying to come back into one’s job [the Milwaukee Police Department comes to mind],and trying to transition back into your community is extraordinarily complicated.
It is complicated because of their having come from the civilian world [lifestyle] and not coming from the active duty world and trying to reenter society but having this enormous life experience of combat that changes everybody.
Dr. Art Cyr, PhD, Director, Clausen Center for World Business:
Focusing on Wisconsin, as mentioned Wisconsin does not have the kind of direct involvement with the military that other states may have, especially in the South. But Wisconsin does have a proud tradition of being a beacon of reform and has spearheaded change in the United States.
The progressive tradition has been found mostly in domestic politics reflected in strong support for the United Nations after WWII.
Increased Segregation of our military community from civil society.
More general problems the National Guard has here in Wisconsin, one of the things we need to work on is increasing segregation and separation of our professional military from the wider American society.
I’m not being critical of the military or American society, for compared to the Vietnam Era when I served in the military and we had a conscript force, the current force is extraordinarily impressive in its effectiveness, but also steadily segregated [isolated] from the rest of American society. There is hard data to reflect this [alienation] from the rest of society.
VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL COMMENT: Though I do not agree with all of Dr. Cyr’s views, especially on how many American citizens (100 out of the collective public) supported the Vietnam War, I do strongly agree with his concern that our military is being increasingly isolated from the rest of American society. Less than one percent of the American citizenry voluntarily serves the nation regardless the motivation. It is this growing segregation between America’s military community and civil society that breeds APATHY.
Finally in terms of cost-benefit analysis you can’t quantify the human cost like the Vietnam experience I believe out of [the] American people collectively only 100 supported the war.
But money counts, and money is important, I’d like to make two brief points:
First the military personnel burden we are facing today is quite manageable especially compared to WWII and the Eisenhower years. Our military burdens and challenged were far greater in cost-benefit as well as human terms [during the late 1940s and 50s Hot and Cold War period].
Second, I believe that the Bush administration would have invaded Iraq no matter what happened in this country, in fact they were planning to do so before 9/11.
However, terrorism poses more of a threat to our economic system than the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.
A few of the hard question asked by host ENRIQUE FIGUEROA
VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL COMMENT: I decided not to provide the responses nor cover every question asked in order to encourage readers to watch the video.
– How do we assess the gains and losses in a distinct way?
– How do we define for our viewers and audience what a win in Afghanistan will look like?
– What do you tell the families of the 6,000 Americans killed and the 46,000 wounded? What do you tell them about the sacrifices made?
– How are they treating our Veterans when they get home?
ALISON LIGHTHALL: We don’t know what the body count actually is! We have to assume from what [official] numbers we are getting that it is much bigger [higher] than that. That’s the most important thing.
I’d like to know from your opinion how many times the end game [mission] has changed?
What is the current definition of the end game [mission in Iraq and Afghanistan]?
What are we looking forward to as an exit strategy other than some arbitrary date [2011, 2014, or the next kick the can date] that we [will continue to] broadcast to our adversaries?
VETERANS TODAY CLOSING COMMENT: Several other folks in the audience, including a few Veterans, asked the very hard questions that our mainstream media and political system ignores, refuses to ask, or collaborates on what I believe is a politico-media blackout on the wars, because no one has an EXIT STRATEGY for Iraq or Afghanistan. The Bush administration took a lot of heat from Democrats and their supporters for not have an exit strategy for either Iraq or Afghanistan, however no one with their head on straight should have expected the Neo-Cons to give serious thought to how to get out of the Middle East or SW Asia. Question is has the Obama administration and Democrats done any better. President Obama has a “war strategy” (that called for the beginning of withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2011, but that date [can] has been kicked to 2012 (great makes the wars a campaign issue in the next Presidential elections).
Let’s hold an on-line poll to bet on what the next troop withdrawal date will be that the can [Wars] will be kicked or when the next SURGE of American troops in Afghanistan or Iraq will be?
Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, Veterans Today News Network