05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • John Ridley Emmy-Winning Commentator and Writer for Esquire

I have not lived through a significant war. I was too young to recall much of Vietnam. The "big one" of my generation lasted only three days. To be honest, for me and my friends, it was the Falklands War that dominated our psyche - the evil Argentineans vs. the place where hottie Princess Di was from.

But I know, or I know that I believe what war on the Home Front is supposed to feel like. I know what I know, or believe what I believe, because of the impact of our previous wars looms large in our collective memory. That's because in theory, we all fought our previous wars: the draft, enlistment, volunteerism. Raised taxes and strict rations.

There is an ideal of domestic distribution in warfare; in a democracy the cost and consequence of conflict levied across the populace. Simply: shared sacrifice. All of us feeling it where it hurts. The heart if we must, the pocket book if we can. Wherever else because we should.

Anyway, that's my belief.

The following is what our president believes re: the shared sacrifice of the public as stated in a January 16 interview on the PBS NewsHour:

"They sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war...

"Now, here in Washington when I say, 'What do you mean by that?' They say, 'Well, why don't you raise their taxes? That'll cause there to be a sacrifice.' I strongly oppose that. If that's the kind of sacrifice people are talking about, I'm not for it because raising taxes will hurt this growing economy. And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life's moving on, that they're able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table."

So, there's a war on terrorism. It's us against the Axis of Evil. Evil Doers abound. But don't let it get you in a bluesy groove, folks. Sure, hurt some 'cause you gotta suffer through a little of that biased depressing war coverage on the news. But don't get so remorseful you don't want to catch the latest episode of Three and a Half Men.

This, then, is the very best of wars. It is not defined by war bonds or scrap drives. Not by MIA bracelets and nightly body counts. And the very idea that another Cronkite could, should or would speak up on broadcast TV - on the Network's dime - and announce as "the most trusted man in America" it's time to fold the tent and go home... Those days are done.

This is the age of us being directed to do all we can to "Move on, make a living...put more money on the table" (for the record, it's FOOD on the TABLE, MONEY in the BANK.

Going into the fifth year of what is to all but the most ardent of neo-Cons a hopeless folly there is outrage. There are protests. Muted and irregular when compared to those of the Vietnam era.

It is this way because we, all of us, are not fighting this war. All of our sons and husbands, daughters and wives are not faced with the threat of being drafted from our lives and hustled to a battlefield. If they were, how long . . . how short of a time do you imagine it would be prior to the public screaming bloody murder, shutting down this sham of a nation building campaign down? Instead, unfortunately, it is only the bravely willing who have anything to fear. Their sacrifice compounded, we now know, when they return home wounded to find inadequate recovery care.

Meanwhile, here, vacation travel is up. SUVs still rule the road. The news is dominated by the housing market or teen pop queen #12's pantiless crotch shot. The war in Iraq is little more than a crawl at the bottom of the screen. As recently as the week of Feb. 5-9, ABC and NBC evening news each spent a measly fourteen minutes reporting on the war; these stats tracked by the Tyndall Report. CBS, a lousy five minutes.

Oh, but for Walter Cronkite.

Those numbers merely underscore what we already know. "We" are not engaged in battle. It is being fought by them, over there; soldiers we probably don't know. Iraqis we'll never know. Insurgents, who we don't know if they are terrorists or militia members or Sunni extremists or just ex-army guys who are pissed.

I have stated the following previously and will restate it for disclosure: I voted for Bush in 2004, and I still don't believe now that Kerry was a viable alternative. I have always thought that Dick Cheney was evil, Don Rumsfeld an idiot. But I'd hoped free of the need to be re-elected, knowing the cost - in every sense - of the war, Bush might heed the more enlightened of his team, do the right and honorable thing: find a way out of Iraq.

Short of that, at least ask all of us to give more to the cause.

Instead, as we begin the run toward Iraq 5.0, Bush is worried that we're all feeling "somewhat down because of this war."

Yes, we are feeling "somewhat down." Not because, not solely because, of the war itself. Rather, because the objectives of this war were never clear, the reasons for going were ginned up, and the enemy we should be fighting is regrouping in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

That's what's got us down, Mr. President. That and the notion we've got nearly two more years of you asking us to do as little as we can to actually win this thing. Or, to feel the pain so severely all of us will do what we can to bring the fighting to an end.