The most important issue for young people in the 2008 Presidential Campaign will bolster candidates prepared to bring an immediate end to the war in Iraq. Despite their typical lack of bureaucratic representation, a draft is more likely to ask young adults to be cannon fodder or hamburger.
Day after day, my colleagues are waking up stunned, often after having taken on more of the responsibilities seniority may bestow. As more young Americans filed taxes for the first time, particularly for the first time during a failing war effort, interest in their institution’s returns is springing forth from apathy. For tomorrow’s contributors, the arriving certainty of taxes harkens a greater interest in another certainty: death. The Iraq War’s violence is the first occasion some young people had to bury an ever younger friend or sibling.
While it will have taken this notion tragically long to definitely influence outlook, the conflict that defined our formative years was legislatively built upon contradictory pretenses, exaggerated evidence, and even forgery. Even now, it maintains sufficient domestic support merely on the back of denial. The bumper sticker motto “Support Our Troops,” for example, will finally fail to rouse sympathies for a campaign founded on interests increasingly external to and separate from the troops’.
I am confident that by the time self-respecting young American women fully comprehend the starkness of Iraqi refugees destitute on the foreign prostitution market, diplomatic solution to the cultural crises will crisp. As young men dreaming of fatherhood finally absorb the testimony of one Abu Ghraib detainee’s story about the sterilization drugs he was given, a newfound grasp on a human life’s dignity will illuminate the alternatives to cruelty that cruelty itself obscures. As patriots advise themselves regarding the interrogation black sites of eastern Europe, they shall discover if secrecy has preserved their common defense or, through its sheltering, preserved a helplessness to intervene in the cause of meaningful personal freedom.
The American youth will have built their new electoral consciousness for peace on neither cowardice nor stubborn idealism. The Department of Defense – having accomplished from the war’s outset nothing as modest as defense, having ostensibly enforced United Nations (U. N.) mandate despite actual U. N. preference to the contrary, and having recklessly jeopardized entire masses’ livelihoods – has left an all-consuming void in the Iraq Mission, vis-à-vis, “a just war.” This void is absent of goals less disingenuous than exercising influence on fuel markets. By November 2008, the prospect of garnering the nation glory for the ages for having “spread democracy” or “progress” will appear too radical. That prospect will seem as irrelevant then as demands that the United States bare responsibility for the “indirect” casualties of infrastructural gutting seem today.
For the most part, the popular movement toward immediate troop pullout has escaped the stigma that youth opposition to Vietnam attracted in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Vietnam was a conflict for which the United States military and its opposition paid a substantially higher human toll than in Iraq; however, modernity’s higher ratio of domestic war protestor to invasion casualty elegantly demonstrates how expansionist conflicts are, in the long term, meeting relatively magnified hostility from the electorate and especially the youth.
Not long into Bush’s second term, the president’s fallen opponents Edwards and then Kerry had to express complete regret for casting war authorization votes. However pathetically late their apologies may have arrived to voters, those statements– Edwards’ published as conspicuously as the Times’ letters page – demonstrate just how much political capital is out there for a Presidential candidate responsible enough to set aside warfare only for its necessary place. War should transpire only in a future in which it necessary to preserve the constitution, civil liberties, or American lives categorically jeopardized at home. With each passing election cycle complacent, the low-turnout youth have provided indifference to ticket strategizing sessions and tragic precedents for pollsters of the conscienceless decision-makers of the past. Although Bush’s damningly astute label of “flip-flopper” stuck well, insiders must have had such impoverished expectations for the war that the Democratic Party’s last contenders took a calculated risk in rolling with the punches. Although it was widely described as a “referendum” on the Iraq War, the last Election’s outcome failed to satisfy the divided public. Army sign-up’s personal risks and signing bonuses scaled a new proverbial Everest in January, a young people were beckoned louder and louder into mercenariness. A paradigm is about shift.
Barack Obama’s fundraising dominance among the youth demographic can be attributed to his long-time consistent opposition to the Iraq War from the start. His was a name and cult following established by his grasp on the ever more popular notion that John Kerry had hypocritically tried to cash in on while trying to send more cash to the conflict. Now, even a candidate like Obama, a high-profile favorite of the war-weary, has kneeled to the opposing pressure from the Presidency. He has excused his funding of a war “dumb” by design; he wrote off his passing the bill to the taxpayer as his refusal to “play chicken with our troops.” As the anti-war candidate most adept at filling coffers, his strategically unwise pandering leaves him backpedaling from brave truths: namely, that through its own malfeasance, the Congress has “wasted” thousands of innocent lives. There is no amount of patriotism, save where tainted by perverse nationalism, to compromise the honest description of our nation’s loss.
A new and difficult realism will birth itself out of conversations with those coming home for good just now. Conversations with forgiveness, patience, understanding, and compassion – not histrionic application of the “baby-killer” prejudice – will enable society to heal, and for the war’s veterans to find reward in having stood their ground, followed orders they believed pertinent to protecting Americans within their borders, and having carried out directives successfully. The domestic iron curtain will fall when soldiers do not feel so insulated from the rest of society. A soldier’s understanding of her mission – for reasons of simplicity as well as security – is inherently compartmentalized.
The rising costs and consequent exclusivity of inhabiting the top of the candidate field necessitate young peoples’ pressuring the hawks to outright flip-flop. Once the fog of war descended, the youth had to squint to rediscover even the most rudimentary inklings of what the peace struggle required. To finally defeat the cynical and evil lies that only bred their disillusionment, young voters will stop embracing the delusional nightmare that the government orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center; even more vitally, they will have to reject that brutally imperialistic notion that war for monetary benefit alone is ethical. Those two points are either a) cheap enough to sell a la carte and b) useful only as means to terrible, terrible ends.
The callousness of the new Administration and its Bush Doctrine, which drives the occupation, has destroyed all historical perspective and belittled the missions of patriots past. Whether the older generations were bent on undoing fascism or securing their inalienable rights from an Imperialistic power, contemporary goals have never been so soulless and material driven.
Today, more than a year before the election, as our juggernaut of a president professes to spread freedom at gunpoint, because the war’s proponents can only lament their opposition’s “defeatism” about an terrible project, because common sense dictates the Iraq War forever unethical and unnecessary from its very outset, the power of young voters will rest mostly in the hands of the candidate unwilling to stack the bodies of the innocent and powerless so that the strong might know the vainly-soothing balm of supercilious ends