The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 14, 2012

Obligations to veterans loom large


Daily Item

---- — Veterans Day in the Valley lasted considerably more than a single day as organizations, schools and civic groups all tried to arrange commemorative events to duly recognize the sacrifice and service of the region's veteran population.

It is a laudable indication of how service to country is a core value of many Valley residents. The soldiers and their families deserve every bit of recognition, as often as possible, year-round.

The lofty rhetoric included reminders that after every war we have had some form of a tax increase to take care of our war debts and war wounded. What are we going to do now? How much of a tax increase are we willing to accept on behalf of our veterans? How will we make sure that the money gets to the veterans and is well spent?

The problem of insulating decisions of war and peace in a democracy from the voting public through undeclared wars, off budget war spending, outsourced private security for our ambassadors and embassies and volunteer armies is that the bill comes due eventually and a majority of citizens and voters can say, with some reason, "I had nothing to do with this decision. Why should I pay for it?"

Getting the public behind paying for the cost is even more difficult when the nation wants an unpopular or little-understood war to fade even more quickly from the national stage. The U.S. government has allocated $1.38 trillion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $121.1 billion in fiscal year 2012. Those figures do not include the ongoing costs associated with caring for veterans for the rest of their lives.

There will be a day of reckoning and all those concerned about our national debt will be interested in the debate over how to pay the war bill when it comes due.

Our job as citizens is full time. Our support for others citizens in arms doesn't happen only on Memorial Day, July Fourth and again on Veterans Day.

While this failure of involvement is broadly a public responsibility, it is more specifically the responsibility of those who held decision-making roles in public office who did not want the public involved because they did not want the responsibility of explaining their actions, their conclusions, their costly failures and, in some instances, their clear conflicts of interest or potential for personal enrichment.