Wars aren’t over when they’re over

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The latest mass shooting on a U.S. military base is just another indication our military forays into Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to bear bitter fruit for many years.


We lost nearly 4,500 of our military men and women in Iraq, a war of choice based on “intelligence” that was trumped up by the Bush administration. More than 30,000 others were wounded in that military misadventure. In Afghanistan, a war that began as an effort to rout the Taliban turned into an ill-advised attempt to build a new nation. The toll there: more than 2,100 dead and nearly 20,000 wounded.


But those numbers of wounded – 50,000 in the two wars – don’t begin to tell the story of the lasting agony created by those military operations. Many thousands more – who knows how many – suffered mental wounds that may never be healed. Ivan Lopez, who opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and wounding 16 others before taking his own life, may have been one of those unlucky souls. Early reports indicated that he had served in Iraq and was receiving assistance for depression, anxiety and other ills.


As a soldier still on active duty, he was more fortunate that many others who have been largely forgotten since separating from the military services. How many thousands, we wonder, have had their minds, and lives, shattered by their experiences in these wars and now get little or no help from the government and people they served.


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did more to damage our military than any budget cuts we’ve seen. Military men and women were sent over and over again to serve tours of duty in countries where our goals, whatever they may have been originally, eventually became fragmented and unattainable.


Despite the tragedies arising from these military entanglements, we still have shameless saber-rattlers walking the halls of our Congress and polluting the television airwaves, criticizing the president for attempting to use diplomacy to address crises overseas and apparently still thinking, despite the horrors of wars that still should be fresh in their minds, that military intervention should be at or near the top on our list of possible responses. Perhaps if we had a requirement that members of Congress and political talk-show bloviators who want to send our troops into deadly peril be required to face their own deployments and lead those soldiers into battle, we’d hear a lot less of this sort of talk.


The latest tragedy in Texas also reinforces the foolishness of the statement by NRA leader Wayne LaPierre and those of his ilk that the best way to stop a “bad guy with a gun” is a “good guy with a gun.” This has been proven time and again to be an idiotic assertion. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to how many good guys and good women with guns were at Fort Hood when Ivan Lopez was able to open fire and shoot nearly 20 people before killing himself? “A lot” would be the correct answer. Yet, LaPierre and his minions want us to believe that a pistol-packing guard or a schoolteacher with a .45 in her desk drawer could effectively deter a determined, well-armed lunatic bent on killing a bunch of children. As you might recall, there was an armed police presence at Columbine. Do you remember how that worked out?


Even though the gunman in this latest massacre was a military man, now is as good a time as any to think again, seriously, about why private citizens need to be able to buy and possess military-style weaponry, and to improve our system of screening people who want to buy guns.


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