Sixty-three years ago today, 155,000 allied troops landed at Normandy Beach. Every year, on the sixth of June, I spend nearly the whole day thinking about what that meant.
The logistics alone stagger the imagination. Think of the vessels that carried the soldiers there, the training camps where they learned to fight, the parents and loved ones and children and neighbors back home desperately praying and hoping for the best.
Think of the provisions necessary: 155,000 pairs of boots, 155,000 guns, 155,000 dog tags, millions of bullets, and the list goes on.
Factories on the home front converted from peacetime to wartime over the course of five years, churning out every item necessary, from underwear to hand grenades to aircraft.
Folks back home struggled with rationing and loss as the U.S. government impressed men into service and locked down the equipment and supplies necessary for war.
Simple commodities such as coffee and sugar, not themselves vital to the fight, were rationed because the fuel necessary to ship them had to be conserved.
Corporations were expected to cut back as well. Congress passed laws making excessive profits illegal.
The rich and powerful died alongside the poor and unknown. Buried among the 9,000 other Americans at the Normandy American Cemetery is Theodore Roosevelt Jr., nephew of the 26th President of the United States.
Today, like 63 years ago, our country is at war. Who is sacrificing this time?
Then, all of President Roosevelt's sons served in the military. Today, President Bush's daughters — seemingly blind to their place on the world stage — insensitively gallivant around the globe, with Secret Service protection, while men and women their own age die horrible deaths thousands of miles from home.
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Today, oil companies make the largest profits in their history. They pay no windfall profit taxes, taxes developed to guarantee that companies don't take advantage of a national crisis.
Today, defense contractors such as Halliburton show unprincipled financial gain. War profiteering benefits wealthy stockholders — including our own vice president — instead of sending unpatriotic business leaders to jail.
We have no draft. Consequently, only volunteers feel the horror of death and dismemberment caused by conflict. Only their families pay the personal price of our nation's rush to war, many serving over and over again. If the U.S. government drafted the soldiers necessary to wage this war, would we still be fighting?
Statistics released from a May 23 CBS poll find that 63 percent of Americans want a timetable for ending the war. If the members of Congress who have regularly betrayed the will of the people had to send their sons and daughters to Iraq, would we have a timetable? Would we be there at all?
And who will pay the debt we owe our veterans? Just Friday, approximately 3,000 Maine veterans were notified that they received an average of $250 worth of medicine the Veterans Administration had supplied but hadn't billed them for, and those veterans, many of them elderly, now have to pay.
The United States Congressional Budget Office has estimated the 10-year costs of disability compensation for the Iraq conflict at around $1 billion and the 10-year costs of dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving family members at around $400 million. But none of us will be taxed to pay these costs, because the one stop-gap measure on unlimited indebtedness, the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, expired on September 30, 2006.
Our country should never ask even one soldier to die if the citizenry and corporate America is unwilling to sacrifice as well. People must acknowledge the price of war. Companies must pay their fair share. If a conflict looms, we must tighten our belts and steel our resolve or we must not fight at all.
No just society should allow profit for the powerful from the suffering of the few. And now we have a new price tag for the Iraq war, but unlike 63 years ago, we have no mechanism to pay it.
We have 1.4 billion dollars to provide for our most disabled veterans, and only for 10 years. How about some perspective? About 1.4 billion seconds ago, 155,000 Allied soldiers stormed Normandy's beach.