Punxsutawney Phil gets all the attention this time of year. Living in Maine I find it charming the way everyone runs to their TV in early February to see how much longer winter will last. I’m no meteorologist, but once you get north of New Hampshire it seems pretty likely winter will last clear into April.
I wish we had a more helpful groundhog: One who could predict an end to things a little more avoidable than winter and a lot less welcome. We could give her a name like Punxsutawney Pat. And for prognostication powers, she’d have the ability to foresee the end to war. Sadly, if such a fortune telling fur ball existed, her news would be far more grim than what her brother told us on Monday. She too would have come out of her hole and seen her shadow — but regrettably her shadow means six more weeks of futile slaughter.
Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it,” getting him more than a hundred years of chuckles — and highlighting our powerlessness over Mother Nature. But people can do something about war. Unfortunately, most everyone in power acts as powerless as if war were the weather.
Treating war as though it were a hurricane barreling toward us is poor use of a congressional seat or the presidency.
This weekend there will be some important rallies in Washington, D.C. If you’re one of the tens of thousands recently laid-off workers you’ve probably got the time to throw a cooler filled with bologna sandwiches in the car and head on over there. That’s if you can still afford the bologna. The government can’t help you; it’s got a war to finance.
Among other events, there will be a march from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House to remind the new occupant of his promise to end what he himself called a “dumb war.” It’s actually a dreadfully handy march for many of the folks who will be there. See, they can put flowers on their kids’ graves first and then walk to the White House to beg our new president to save the lives of countless other soldiers — by bringing them home.
Military Families Speak Out will start the weekend with a “teach-in” on Friday, “featuring testimonies from those whose lives have been directly impacted by the war.” Spc. Darius Johnson’s mom will be there. He won’t be able to make it; he died in Iraq in 2003.
Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey’s parents will be there on his behalf, too. Tragically, Cpl. Lucey died by suicide in 2004.
You can read the latest Pentagon report detailing the record-breaking military suicide rates at the Voice of America Web site. They say it’s the highest rate in 30 years. And according to The Los Angeles Times, “Military officials say in a report that prevention efforts are inadequate.” The LA Times cites some causes — such as the blanket extensions of soldiers’ tours of duty and their repeated tours. Prevention efforts should include eliminating those tours.
When this war first began an awful lot of the people in charge did their own Punxsutawney Pat impersonation, predicting a speedy end. It wasn’t much more than six weeks later that “mission accomplished” was declared. And while it is difficult to predict the end to anything, six weeks from now that war will have lasted six years!
This past Sunday the Iraqis held provincial elections. According to the Department of Defense, “More than 14,400 candidates competed for 440 seats in 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces.”
Things went so well that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, issued this statement, “Congratulations to the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi Security Forces, the Iraqi people, the United Nations, the international observers, and Coalition elements for their concerted efforts in making today’s provincial elections an event of which all Iraqis should be proud and an effort the world should applaud.”
The new Obama White House says it’s going to take 16 months to bring our troops home. Punxsutawney Pat says that’s unacceptable. Military Families Speak Out and the rest of us are justified in expecting an end to combat. Learn more at www.mfso.org.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.