Resistance and reason

Memorial Day weekend, which comes around at the last weekend in May, is typically a time to reflect on past conflicts, and especially remember the veterans, the men and women who gave a part of themselves for the sake of others.

By Claude Salhani

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Published: Sat 3 Jun 2006, 9:53 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:43 PM

It’s a time put aside individual political differences over the war —why the country went to war in the first place —and honour those who partook in the conflict; the veterans of foreign wars —both those who died and those who lived. Often, those left alive carry a bigger burden than their fallen comrades. They forever carry a piece of that hell around with them.

With its many monuments, Washington is the ideal city for remembering the veterans. Being the centre of the nation’s political life, it is also a place where many honour the dead and debate the living. Was the war worth the cost in human lives? Was it worth the property damage and in the dollars spent to maintain the beast of war in the style in which it is accustomed? The beast of war is one that develops a gargantuan appetite, both for human lives and material, and consumes both at an equally frightful cadence.

To give you an idea of how fast money is being spent in Iraq, just read this short sentence again.

In the approximate four seconds it took you to read this last sentence, the US has just spent another 35,000 to 40,000 dollars. The total cost to date stands at $284,755,290,789 as of this writing. By the time you finish reading the rest of the column in another five minutes, the US government would have spent close to another million dollars, according to The National Priorities Project, a group describing itself as 'a nonpartisan education and advocacy organisation that makes its tools, resources, and data available to the general public.' The NPP’s aim is 'solely to educate the public on the impacts of federal tax and spending policies at the community level.'

The NPP states that the cost of war In Iraq —now standing at $284,760,197,435 —could instead have fully funded global anti-hunger efforts for 11 years. That’s on the financial level.

On the human level, the ogre that is the hungry beast of war has to date claimed between 38,059 and 42,434 deaths among the Iraqis; close to 2,500 dead American military personnel and wounded some 16,000, according to the Department of Defense. And also claimed the lives of hundreds of coalition troops. Memorial Day is a time to set aside the anger that accompanies war and remember the country’s heroes for who they were, simple folks, farmer boys, one of the men who held a chair at the corner barber shop, a few students who didn’t care to go on to college. It’s the boy next door, the young woman who worked at the bakery. And now it’s the girl next door, too, who puts on a uniform and goes off to fight.

War is a nasty business and what makes it harsher is the fact that no people take kindly to the presence of foreign forces on their soil. Yet occupations continue and with them comes resistance. Yet the only leader to have understood that concept is Sultan Qaboos of Oman.

When the Sultanate was confronted with a rebellion in its southern Dhofar province in the 1970s, at the time supported by what was then communist South Yemen, or more correctly, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, (itself in turn supported by the Soviet Union), Qaboos dispatched his army to quell the uprising. The Omanis were backed by the British, by the shah of Iran, and by other pro-Western forces.

Qaboos’ strategy was that as soon as a village or region had been taken from rebel hands that the Sultan ordered the foreign forces —including the Omani army —out of the area. He replaced them with ‘firqats,’ or groups of autochthonous forces made up of local tribesmen and converted rebels. This helped appease the local population and prevented animosity towards the army and the central government in Muscat from taking root. There is undoubtedly a good lesson to be learned from the Omani experiment. It is the only one to have produced positive results.

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, DC. He may be contacted at Claude@upi.com.



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