A long, hard slog to where?

Jason G. Damron

Americans who have been holding their breath for the “end of war” are still waiting to exhale. The cooling breath of peace seems less likely now than at any other point since the overthrow of Hussein and his henchmen. Peace is now only a projection of a nostalgic longing for war as it used to be known.

Americans are coming to realize that the “war on terror” is an ongoing military affair. There will be no final cataclysmic event, no final toppling of a statue, no casket filled with “evildoers” that will serve as a distinct endpoint. In an era of unprecedented media coverage, the final bow before the camera will never happen. How could this be?

George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in May and declared an end to “major military combat in Iraq.” It could be argued that everyone was more than a little relieved. The major corporations could move in and benefit the shareholders and, presumably, the people of Iraq; the administration could ring the bell of success; the aspirants of peace and non-violence could begin anew with the assurance that more communities could be spared the acrid taste of violence and chaos.

That day in May, the president’s flight suit could barely contain his enthusiasm. And while I am not a fan of his policies, I was also relieved. I was relieved for the military families, the people of Iraq and the members of government who promised a strategy of “shock and awe.” I wanted to believe that, despite my almost sickening reservations about its beginning, this war could be quickly brought to a “successful” end. I wanted to rest assured, despite my revulsion to any government shocking another with its refined brutality, that the world could be a better place and that war may be justified in some instances.

Today, I stand amazed that I was ever so na퀌�ve. I am in shock at how disastrous this “operation” has been. I am in awe that a presidential administration so intent on war, no matter what the figurative and literal cost, is doomed at waging peace. I am in shock that, despite warnings by so many, Iraq was not a front edge of terrorist activity, but that the Pentagon and the administration decided to make it that anyway. I am in awe at both conservative and liberal politicians and pundits for obscuring the historical reasons and economic relations of terrorism with egoistic taunts of “liar” and “traitor.”

The spectacle of Bush and the aircraft carrier was a masterful caress of the camera by a media-enhanced presidency. But like any embrace that lasts too long, the exasperation of being held so close has now become overwhelming. The sincerity of the original intent is transformed into a smothering desperation. How else can one explain the instructions from the Pentagon and the administration for a media blackout of dead soldiers’ “homecomings”? When will Bush free us from a propagandist embrace that cloaks the shards of truth about this very murky war?

This week, Donald Rumsfeld bluntly declared the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “long, hard slog.” A leaked internal memo from Rumsfeld to top Pentagon officials pointed to decidedly “mixed results” (as reported by MSNBC on Tuesday, Oct. 21) in the war on terror. The phantom of a longer, more costly fight – much more than the warnings the president sounded this summer – is here.

The only question that remains is what costs are we, as Americans, unwilling to pay? Recent polls find that we feel no safer and no more content, and the majority does not believe we have made significant progress in the war on terror. This from a people who urgently wanted to believe that Bush’s administration would make us safer.

There is a dangerous detail that Americans are beginning to comprehend, despite the sophisticated assurances otherwise: In this war, punctuated by staccatos of unexpected violence, swooning under Christian and Islamic extremism and drowning in the blood of youth, there is no winning.