Editorial – Viewpoint: War’s cost is too great

I’m not much of a college basketball fan, so when I was faced with being a basketball widow for three weeks during the NCAA tournament, I went to the library to check out some movies.

One movie I checked out was “The Pianist.” I now know why it received the Oscars it did. It’s a powerful movie about the devastation of war and about its human cost.

People around the world recently commemorated the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. I believe it is appropriate at a milestone like this to reflect on the devastation of war.

We know the human cost – more than 2,300 American soldiers whose lives have been lost and more than 17,000 whose lives have been changed forever by permanent injuries. Besides that, there are tens of thousands of Iraqis who have died, and for every death, there are at least 10 Iraqis whose lives have been permanently altered by injury.

We also know the dollar cost – $251 billion so far that have already been spent or appropriated. West Virginia’s share of that is $710.1 million; Kanawha County’s, $89.3 million. What good could we have done here with that money? We don’t know and never will because the money is gone. The dollar cost will likely be going up. Congress is considering an additional $72 billion appropriation for the war. That appropriation has already passed the House and is now going to the Senate.

The question that remains to be asked is what has been the cost to the soul of our country? What kind of people have we become? Do we care about the suffering we are causing? I hope that we have not become so calloused that we can no longer feel the pain of those who are suffering, whether they be our soldiers or whether they be Iraqi civilians.

When I watched “The Pianist,” I was struck by how war can cause people to lose their dignity and humanity. I witnessed scenes in that movie in which the desperation of war caused people to become animals – groveling for food, becoming traitor to their own, resorting to crime.

War is terrible. War is filthy. War is dehumanizing. War is something that should be a last resort, entered into gravely and with much thought. Did our administration do that? As Americans, we should question that and hold those in power responsible for the decisions they have made.

In early April, I will celebrate an anniversary with my husband. That will be a happy anniversary. At this anniversary of the war in Iraq, we, as Americans, should ask ourselves whether we want to celebrate another. The answer for me is no.

Swing, a South Charleston musician and private music teacher, is president of West Virginia Patriots for Peace.