When people are having a good time, you don't want to be the skunk in
the garden. And this week, people were having such a good time at that
big White House welcome for the Queen. The New York Times says her
majesty was "making Americans go weak in the knees." Sometimes we
colonials seem so dazzled by British royalty that I wonder if General
Washington did defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown.
But a less playful thought also occurred to me watching the first and
royal families all gussied up. I couldn't help but think of Prince
Harry, the Queen's grandson, who is headed for Iraq with a cavalry
regiment, even though he's a conspicuous target for assassination or
kidnapping. There's angst in official circles that other members of his
regiment will be put at graver risk because of his celebrity. So guess
what his comrades -- his fellow soldiers -- are doing? Rather than
petition the Queen to keep the young man home, they have gotten shirts
printed up with the words across them: "I'm Harry." Marvelous, no? The
commoners and the Prince are in this together: one for all and all for
one. What a notion -- that war should be the great equalizer, that no
one's son or daughter is privileged from duty or danger.
You have to wonder how the last four years might have been different if
only our President had asked sacrifice from everyone. Instead, mostly
folks from the working class and professional soldiers are doing the
dying in Iraq, while the rich spend their tax cuts. War on the cheap,
except for those fighting it.
Watching all the wrangling in Washington this week over timetables and
exit strategies and benchmarks, it occurred to me that this travesty
might end much more quickly if what is happening in Iraq were not just
word-play to our leaders -- something others die for while officials
talk, talk, and talk. Suppose the next time they pow-wow and palaver
the President and Congress were asked to wear shirts with the words
written across them, "I'm Harry."
Bill Moyers is the host of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers
Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
This essay appears on tonight's program.
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