March 23, 2007

Rural Americans dying more in Iraq?

Steve S. pointed me to this post that suggests that Rural Americans are bearing a much higher burden in this ill-gotten war.
What does this mean? Just over 3,000 Americans have died in Iraq. If the U.S. population is 300 million, then that's just 0.001% of it. Add into this the fact that the American dead come disproportionately from the most forgotten, least attended to parts of our country, from places that often have lost their job bases; consider that many of them were under or unemployed as well as undereducated, that they generally come from struggling, low-income, low-skills areas. Given that we have an all-volunteer military (so that not even the threat of a draft touches other young Americans), you could certainly say that the President's war in Iraq -- and its harm -- has been disproportionately felt. If you live in a rural area, you are simply far more likely to know a casualty of the war than in most major metropolitan areas of the country.

No wonder it's been easy for so many Americans to ignore such a catastrophic war until relatively recently. This might, in a sense, be considered part of a long-term White House strategy, finally faltering, of essentially fighting two significant wars abroad while demobilizing the population at home. When, for instance, soon after the 9/11 attacks the President urged Americans to go to Disney World or, in December 2006, to go "shopping more" to help the economy, he meant it. We were to go on with our normal lives, untouched by his war.
Also interesting to me, in that Bush polled pretty high in those areas of America--and may still. Rural america is one of those areas where the Republican bait and switch works incredibly well--don't look at the economy or the war, focus on the aborting gays and flag burners.

In other news, btw, Steve and I are discussing gun control in the comments. I am sure we could use some other voices if anyone wants to jump in.


Cold In Laramie said...

Streak, Hasn't this been a common argument about wars, in general, in United States history? Obviously, the most well-known book on the subject is WIlliam Appy's WORKING CLASS WAR: AMERICAN COMBAT SOLDIERS AND VIETNAM, in which he argues that the U.S. military was comprised of black, Hispanic, and working class young men. During World War I, Ellen Perryman, a Muscogee woman from Oklahoma, led an anti-war rally in Henryetta, Oklahoma, as part of the Green Corn Rebellion. Indians, as well as unionists and socialists, protested that the war was a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight. Perryman even said, "The Indians are not going to the slaughter fields of France. ... To hell with the Government and the Allies ... They are nothing but a bunch of grafters and sons of bitches." Finally, wasn't the Draft Riots of New York in the Civil War also a protest against the apparent class division of the Civil War, in which some people could BUY their way out of the war.

Regarding your second point, I would say that in rural Wyoming, the Republican party remains strong. In the last election, the state-wide Representative race went to the Republican incumbant. The Democrat polled well, but lost. Moreover, every once in a while the local papers have stories of Wyoming soldiers who perished in Iraq.

steve s said...

The Republican party may be strong in rural Michigan, but they are losing support. We have a Democratic governor and they also control the House. Republicans still control the Senate, but their lead shrunk.

I can't speak for all rural areas, but it seems that while patriotism and support for the troops is high, support for an ongoing war is not.

P M Prescott said...

Isn't it amazing that when the children who rushed off to get glory and honor in war return either in body bags or as basket cases. Then those around them wise up to the non-sense. In Vietnam the vets coined the a term for the propoganda and lies the government used to get them into the military and the moment they figured it all to be a lie -- they called it "Mindfuck"

Streak said...

Interesting comments. CIL, I love the quote about the "grafters and sons a bitches." I am stealing that one.

Steve, I must say I am even less sure what patriotism means in the modern context. It sure as hell doesn't mean what Rove/Bush/Cheney think it does. I know no one who doesn't support the troops, though, and suspect that is not that new. Some scholarship suggests, btw, that the whole spitting on returning vets coming home from VN was more urban legend than truth.

Pm, that is a great word for it, isn't it? I have always distrusted the bias toward military service in politics which the Republican party nearly required up till Bush, but Bush and Cheney make me think that there is something to it. Throughout the 20th century, we have good examples of people who only know about war from the movies and become huge proponents of other people fighting in wars. John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and now George Bush and Dick "I had better things to do" Cheney are great examples. And if "mindfuck" was relevant to VN, it is almost a perfect description of the current administration's spin.


steve s said...

I don't have a good definition of patriotism, either. I think, to some extent, it means a love an appreciation for your country, but an understanding that our country is more than our leaders and our policies. I also believe it is possible to question leaders and policies and still be a patriot.

As for military service being desirable in our leaders, I have mixed feelings. It was very important to the founding fathers that our military be in civilian control and I think this was very wise. I think that prior service can be benficial, but I am not convinced it is always a good thing.

Streak said...

And I agree, Steve. I certainly believe that one doesn't have to have served in the military to know that war is bad. For some reason, Bush seems to have learned all his understanding of war from Western films.

As for the CinC, Garry Wills had this interesting oped a few months back where he suggests that Ronald Reagan was the first President to start saluting. Eisenhower, of course a real general, didn't do so because that was reserved for those in uniform.

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.

I first cringed at the misuse in 1973, during the “Saturday Night Massacre” (as it was called). President Richard Nixon, angered at the Watergate inquiry being conducted by the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, dispatched his chief of staff, Al Haig, to arrange for Mr. Cox’s firing. Mr. Haig told the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to dismiss Mr. Cox. Mr. Richardson refused, and resigned. Then Mr. Haig told the second in line at the Justice Department, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Mr. Ruckelshaus refused, and accepted his dismissal. The third in line, Robert Bork, finally did the deed.

What struck me was what Mr. Haig told Mr. Ruckelshaus, “You know what it means when an order comes down from the commander in chief and a member of his team cannot execute it.” This was as great a constitutional faux pas as Mr. Haig’s later claim, when President Reagan was wounded, that “Constitutionally ... I’m in control.”

President Nixon was not Mr. Ruckelshaus’s commander in chief. The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

steve s said...

Al Haig was sure an interesting character. To be fair to Reagan, he was in the military (some type of officer's reserve corps, IIRC), and was ordered to active duty following Pearl Harbor. He had bad vision and was prevented from serving overseas.

Anonymous said...

Re: Ellen Perryman and the comment "to hell with the Government and the Allies...They are nothing but a bunch of grafters and sons of bitches". Ellen Perryman is my grandmother. I never knew her as she walked on in 1937. My mom, Ellen's only child, was 14 when grandma passed away. Mom avers that grandma would have never used such language. That said, I personally admire her fighting instincts. Mom and I had the pleasure of decorating grandma's grave today, Memorial Day, 2011.