As the war in Iraq continues, the media focus intensifies. From highlighting the courage of the individuals who serve, to figuring out just how many troops will be needed and for how long, the media attempts to paint a picture for those of us less affected by the war.
Like a canvas the front page of Tuesday's New York Times informs that the Army's "ready" brigade, a part of the 82nd Airborne Division that has been kept on 24 hour alert for decades, is not as fit as it used to be. As the members of the First Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, prepare for a tour in Iraq, they find themselves not fully trained, their equipment scattered, unable to meet their standard of deploying several hundred soldiers to a war zone within 18 hours. Currently, about 50% of the Army's 43 active duty combat brigades, each consisting of 3,500 soldiers, are serving overseas. Upon meeting the White House's demand for additional troops, the Army will have a total of 17 brigades deployed to Iraq, two brigades will be in Afghanistan, and four will be deployed to various overseas locations.
Hiding in the background, is an idea by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez's staff, to pressure the Iraqi government to stop giving people monthly food rations. This suggestion set off a major dispute between Commerce and the State Department. According to this week's National Edition of The Washington Post, the Iraqi government spends about four billion per year to provide basic rations to all Iraqis regardless of need. A former embassy official further emphasized the lack of desire on the part of Iraqi politicians to end the distribution of free food. As Commerce continues to insist on its idea, the irrelevancy of the plan is noted, "I can't tell you how many hundreds of hours everyone has wasted on this issue, when there were all sorts of more productive things they could have been doing with their time," stated one former embassy official.
In small brushstokes, February's Fitness Magazine shares the story of how two women, who have lost their husbands in Iraq, use running to remember their husbands and heal their grief.
Front and center, the soldier frozen on the cover of last Sunday's The New York Times Magazine challenges readers to discover the trauma suffered by female American soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tucked in the right back corner, the OP-ED pages of this week's The Washington Post's National Weekly Edition, give life to former senator Alan K. Simpson's support to overturning the ban on gay service in the military.
In a signature moment, co host Joy Behar of The View , earlier this week pointed out that it is the men and women of the Armed services and their families that are actually making the sacrifices in the war on Iraq. During a discussion of Iraqi policy, Joy Behar emphasized her opinion that Americans as a whole have not been asked to make any sacrifices in support of the war effort.
Whether we find it in magazines, newspapers, or interviews, the word on Iraq, the war, its citizens, our American soldiers; is irony. As the Army faces the difficult prospect of having to return some of its brigades to Iraq with less than a year's training and recuperation, more than 300 hundred language experts have been dismissed under the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Government agencies who have been asked to work together to resolve problems facing the Iraqi nation; instead end up in their own turf wars. A couple train for a triathlon yet it is only the wife who crosses the finish line. Her husband, an Army officer serving in Iraq, killed by a car bomb during a routine check. Soldiers, carrying the burden of their gender, feel pressured to remain tough, less emotional, to show the world that yes; women can serve in a war zone; find themselves enduring and hiding sexual abuse from their male superiors.
Each day the sacrifices pile up, careers lost, women made widows long before their time, sleep broken by nightmares, time wasted. A burden shouldered by a few, images and words to the rest of us. Yes, the sacrifices are out there, like weeds in the summer, just waiting for someone to pay them mind.