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the Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Correcting Those Sins of Omission

Don't you hate it when you are wrong, when you do or say or support the wrong thing. Of course if you're one of the 19 percent of this country who still thinks the U.S. is on the right track then you probably don't believe you've ever been wrong. But for the rest of us, occasionally, it happens.Sometimes being wrong doesn't manifest itself as an action or a deed. Some times we're wrong because of something undone or unsaid. My mom called such things "sins of omission."

A glance at this week's emergency supplemental bill before Congress shows that we will likely pump $170 billion more into that Iraq-Afghanistan abyss we call war. And as I read the measure it's plain that over the past few years I have been telling only half the truth.

I've often said that we, the United States, don't learn from our mistakes. And that's only half true.

It's also pretty obvious that we don't learn from our successes either.

I can't apologize enough for leaving that second half out.

I don't think we should fund the war. I want it to end. If we learned from past successes we would see that once Congress stopped funding Vietnam, that war's days were numbered. But that's not the only success story from which we refuse to learn.

If you read the pending supplemental funding bill you will see more than military appropriations listed there. It has admonishments too: kind of like little reminders of what we do want to do - and don't want to do - with the money we allocate now or in the future. And one of the conditions listed in the bill is that Iraq must pay for its own reconstruction.

Let's see if I can come up with a good analogy for this thinking.

First I need something really immoral. How about selling heroin to 14-year-olds. The part of the drug seller will be played by Halliburton and Blackwater and all those other no-bid defense contractors who set their price as high as they want while we, like the little war addicts that we are, just pay and pay to get our fix.

And when our congresspersons meet the "suppliers" behind the shrimp cocktail at some fancy congressional function to square the deal, these buyers -- desperate for another hit -- say with shaking hands and even shakier moral integrity, "Now you know, you can't expect us to pay for rehab! We don't want to quit using -- we just want more heroin in the middle schools."


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No money for reconstruction? Just money for war!

Maybe you differ with this premise and don't believe that the five-year unprovoked senseless killing in Iraq compares to selling heroin to 14-year-olds. Well, fine, let's agree to disagree.

And we will get back to the original premise that the United States is incapable of learning from its successes.

Even if you're one of the 40 percent of Americans who, according to a recent USA Today poll, want to stay the course in Iraq, you've got to admit that breaking that country and expecting it to pay to repair the damage ignores one of our nation's finest success stories.

When we invested in the Marshall plan we, to a large extent, rebuilt a part of the world that tried to destroy our way of life. And it wasn't cheap. The New Yorker magazine estimates that the $13 billion spent on post-World War II European reconstruction would have equaled $720 billion today. And though the British fought beside us, Germany and Italy were our mortal enemies. But we didn't discriminate. We simply rebuilt them all.

Shortsighted victors like those after World War I would have expected the villains to repair their devastation without assistance and thereby assured another war.

A couple of days ago I stood in the sand in front of the German memorial to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his desert campaign against the Allies in Egypt. The 3,000 or so German soldiers buried in the sand died on orders from their obscene government. Still, we resurrected their homeland.

Now Congress would prohibit helping the victims of a war we started.

All this hard-earned history of ours and we clearly haven't learned anything.

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Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is due out in late spring.

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