Speaking to a men’s breakfast club in downtown Fort Worth last week, I was challenged by one person to name some “positive things” that the president has done during his four years in office.
Without hesitation, I began by saying, “He ended America’s involvement in the Iraq war. If he didn’t do anything else — and, of course, he did — that is an amazing accomplishment considering the great costs.”
That same group over the years had chided me for my resistance to that war, which was one I said should never have been waged and one I labeled a “quagmire” within months after it began.
The more I think about the costs, in lives and dollars, of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, I become all the more irritated when I hear the saber-rattling by politicians and pundits on the issue of Iran or intervention in other countries. It’s almost as though they are ready for another war.
Please, let’s not go there.
More than 4,400 Americans were killed during the eight years of fighting in Iraq, and the death toll in Afghanistan recently passed 2,000. Tens of thousands of men and women have returned from those wars severely damaged physically, mentally and emotionally.
As shown in a report by the Austin American-Statesman, an alarming number of veterans from those wars have died since returning home, the major causes being prescription drug overdoses, toxic drug combinations, suicide and single-car crashes.
The suicide rate among veterans from the two wars is higher than any other time since records have been kept on the matter. This year, there have been 211 possible suicides among active duty and reserve members, averaging almost one a day.
But numbers should not be the only thing we focus on, for many people in this country, including me, can put names and faces to those numbers. These are human beings whose lives have been shattered.
Too many who have come back have been changed so significantly that they are enigmas to their own family members.
The toll will continue to rise because American troops will be in Afghanistan, the nation’s longest war ever, until the end of 2014. Troops there are facing an increasing threat from some Afghan soldiers and security personnel who are turning their weapons on NATO service members.
Now, we have some politicians, along with agitators who sit behind radio microphones, suggesting there has to be more forceful action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. They don’t think diplomacy or economic sanctions will work, although there’s evidence to the contrary. Iran’s currency rate has fallen to record lows since sanctions were imposed.
Many in this country seem to be itching for some kind of military intervention in Iran. It seems every time Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sneezes or utters one of his off-the-wall diatribes, some conservative U.S. leader thinks we need to exert force to show him how tough we are.
All the blustering needs to stop, not out of fear but because there are ways to pressure rogue leaders without threatening to drop a bomb on them. Besides, through the United Nations and the cooperation of our allies who have joined in the sanctions strategy, Iran is suffering.
If those economic pressures become great enough, perhaps the people of Iran, like in other countries of the region, will continue to raise their voices in protest of their dysfunctional and oppressive government.
Maybe Iran and its nuclear program is the one foreign policy debate conservatives think they can win because they can no longer make the argument that this administration or Democrats in general are weak on national security.
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by MCT Information Services.