The other day I was on the phone with Mom and she wanted to get into it about Barack Obama (not that she's a fan of John McCain either, thank God). We've always been a family that could chat this stuff over so it wasn't surprising that this topic would come up. I think my response did surprise her though:
"Mom, I can't talk about this with you. I am done with politics."
Can you believe I once wanted to major in Political Science, and when Dad suggested that that was perhaps the most bankrupt subject on earth (I'm guessing he meant morally as well as financially) I actually cried and told him I wanted to change the world? Hoo boy. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and kindly pat that young girl on the head, lovingly.
I'm having much the same problem with Joseph Stiglitz's and Linda Bilmes's book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. I just can't do it. I tried. But when you can pretty much feel in your bones what a book is going to say, and all you're going to learn from it is some more numbers that you'll forget in a day, and you're too much of a coward to tell your few remaining pro-war friends any of the things you've learned anyway, it's time to give up the ghost and move on to something that will be a better use of your time.
What I can do is give you a flava of the book. I may print it out and make a bookmark out of the following passage; it pretty much says it all. Maybe I'll take it to my conservative in-laws' extended family this Thanksgiving and pass it out.** If nothing else, I'd never have to go to another extended family Thanksgiving.
"By now it is clear that the US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake. Nearly 4,000 US troops have been killed [Editor's note: the number is currently 4155], and more than 58,000 have been wounded, injured, or fallen seriously ill. A further 7,300 troops have been wounded or injured or fallen seriously ill in Afghanistan. One hundred thousand US soldiers have returned from the war suffering from serious mental health disorders, a significant fraction of which will be chronic afflictions. Miserable though Saddam Hussein's regime was, life is actually worse for the Iraqi people now. The country's roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and museums have been destroyed and its citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war. Sectarian violence is rife." (p. ix.)
Also of supreme interest is the appendix showing how the Department of Defense web sites listing Afghanistan and Iraq casualties and injuries have evolved over time to be more confusing in language, more cluttered to look at, and which require the person consulting the site to add their own numbers together rather than providing totals. Close enough for government work!
*I have been reading too many political books this year, as there are too many available. Today's and tomorrow's posts will be my last two about political books in 2008, is my solemn pledge to you.
**I won't, though. See earlier coward assertion.