Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Oil, blood and patriotism

For the most part, the people sacrificing for this war are the troops and their
families, and very few of them are coming from the privileged economic classes.

-- Bob Herbert, New York Times


LEXINGTON, Mass. -- One of my neighbors apppears to take his responsibility of raising a family in this affluent birthplace of the American revolution awfully seriously. He has draped an oversized American flag over his front door. It hangs there day and night, in sunshine and in rain, about 15 feet from the SUV parked in the driveway.

I've been tempted to ask him about his definition of patriotism; to ask him why, if he believes so much in America, he drives a car that guzzles gas, helps push its price sky high, and makes all of us that much more dependent on foreign oil. I want to know how many of his relatives have fought and died in Iraq. And I'd like to remind him that the American flag is supposed to be folded at night and taken down in the rain.

My Toyota Camry likely gets twice the mileage of his car. Yet he's the one with the yellow ribbon on his car's window. The Times' Bob Herbert understands. "The loudest hawks are the least likely to send their sons or daughers off to Iraq," he writes. They're also, according to my strictly unscientific survey, the most likely to drive oversized cars and live in oversized houses.

Just what allows these folks to smugly claim the moral high ground? At the outset of this awful war, they mocked those who suggested oil might be behind the invasion. They're still mocking. But then why are we there? Does anyone really believe that this was a war to stop the proliferation of WMD? There were none. Does anyone watching the daily carnage truly believe we're on the cusp of bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East? Or that Iraq today is a markedly better place ot live than under the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein?

I doubt it.

Dirt does not power cars. Oil does. That's why few politicians, diplomats or armchair generals said boo about the systematic slaughter of tens of thousands in Sudan and Rwanda. That's why, this week, as more of our boys (and girls) are blown to bits on patrol, the Kurds, Shia and Sunni will keep fighting over a Constitution devoted as much to dividing Iraqi oil revenues as in creating democracy. That's why we'll still be in Iraq weeks and months after Cindy Sheehan ends her determined vigil by the Crawford, Texas, roadside, waiting in vain for an arrogant president to say, "I'm sorry."


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