The Iraq War has been described by many politicians and diplomats as the biggest mistake in American history. For ordinary Americans, Iraq also represents one of the most unjust wars.

This is the first war in our nation's history in which every American has not been asked to sacrifice. Robert Hormats makes that point in his book The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars. Hormats notes that in prior wars, Americans paid higher taxes, bought war bonds or faced rationing. But in the Iraq War, the richest Americans have been given a tax break. And none of us except the soldiers and their families are asked for a thing.

The Wall Street Journal last Saturday focused on Andrew Bacevich, a Boston professor and retired Army colonel who just lost his son in Iraq. In his book The New American Militarism, Bacevich wrote that, "Too often, the affluent and well-educated treat national defense as a job they can contract out to the same people who bused their tables and mowed their lawns." And "That made it too easy," reported the WSJ, "for the president to take the nation to war in the first place, and left too few people willing to hold the commander in chief accountable when things went awry."

This inequity that Bacevich has described so incisively is part of the Bush White House's plan to keep Americans from focusing on the war. If there were a military draft, for instance, the war would be finished. The broad mass of American families would not send their sons and daughters to Iraq.

Instead, the war is being fought by volunteers, and when those volunteer soldiers are wounded or maimed, they frequently must fight the bureaucracy to gain disability coverage.

The war is proving so costly in lives that leaders at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash., are planning to change to monthly memorials instead of individual services.

Speaking on a two-part series about the Iraq War's costs on The News Hour last week, the author Robert Hormats said: "The war's funding has been financed off the books, by borrowing in supplemental resolutions."

What this war needs is a U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse. During the Vietnam War, Oregon's Sen. Morse made not one speech but myriad speeches, exposing that war's fallacy. Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield, who opposed the Vietnam War early in his career, also was not quiet.

Oregon's Sen. Gordon Smith styles himself as Hatfield's replacement. On this score, however, Smith has made one big speech. In that he's like a lot of senators who are unwilling or incapable of being national leaders in a very difficult cause.

To remain silent in the face of such inequity and such geopolitical stupidity is unacceptable for senators and congressmen. This dark day also demands that the rest of us raise our voices in disgust to the Governing Class of which our senators and congressmen are part.


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