What will they see if our light goes out?

COLUMBIA, Mo 9/8/13 (Op Ed) -- A hurried rejoinder from former U.S. Representative Jane Harman on Meet the Press today illustrated the confused maze of justifications that is our road to a Syrian war.

If the U.S. attacks, "we're gonna kill some civilians," worried NBC correspondent Chuck Todd.

"They're gonna be killed anyway," Harman interrupted, in what came across as another
bizarre rationale for a strike on Syria meant to teach its leader, Bashar Al Assad, not to kill civilians (at least not with chemical weapons).

Other doubtful reasons include the idea that if we don't strike, "if Congress Fails to Act," the U.S. and Mr. Obama, our President, will "lose credibility."
I may not be a good enough student of history, but I can't recall when "lost credibility" was ever a justification for war. And make no mistake: if Congress consents, the U.S. will be at war with Syria -- and who knows who else.

Amidst talk of another war sits a Nation weary of many things -- from once-shining cities in bankruptcy to the long and grinding trauma of 9/11.
In all history, that attack will forever stand as one of the worst, a sortie of some unimaginable apocalypse from which we are still recovering.  You wouldn't think it though, given the antics of our leaders.
From the IRS to the NSA, virtually every day we're handed a new reason -- or a portfolio of reasons -- not to trust the same government now saying Trust Me, Trust ol' Uncle Sam, for this war shall be limited.

Our leaders have, in fact, hemmed us in with everything from the education debt that's strangling our young, to a surveillance state that's strangling our privacy, to an incomprehensible 2,000-page experiment in national health care few of our politicians bothered to read (before exempting themselves from it, of course).

They are taxing, fining, fee-ing, fighting, and indebting us into the Poorhouse, while watching, spying, and regulating virtually every part of our lives.

Add another war to this stressful brew? Tie us in emotional knots over nations we cannot save, will not save, and have never saved from themselves?

Not for this.
And what about our young people, our beleaguered youth, now shouldering mountains of student debt; retiree pensions; a national debenture we may never repay; reduced employment or entrepreneurial prospects; and the future of a struggling nation?
Have we forgotten who fights wars; who fills those "boots on the ground"; who fires those missiles on the command of some gray hair; who comes back from these "adventures" maimed, torn, damaged?

Young people, mostly.  Do we now force them to take on this burden, and force their families to live in fear of the injury and death that will inevitably accompany it?

Young, old, or middle-aged, I don't want to send any more of my fellow Americans on more adventures
to save the world from itself, to save oil for our progeny, or to somehow save face with despotic creeps. 

Not if those adventures involve the tools of war.

Sarin gas in Syria? Fifteen Saudi Arabians flew commercial jets into our Trade Centers, our Pentagon, and our soil. Did we attack Saudi Arabia over those weapons of mass destruction?  No -- we chased non-existent "WMDs" in Iraq and leveled a minor player on the mid-East stage called Afghanistan.

I don't want to second guess past Presidents.  But it has become too easy for the Executive Branch to declare war -- or something that walks, quacks, maims, and kills like war -- and that has got to change.  We the People have lost control of the War Declaration, and so we find ourselves in constant danger of being dragged into another conflict, regardless its national import.

Though they direct their compassion to good people on distant shores -- families, children, innocent civilians -- my prayer to our leaders is this: That they save some empathy for us.

As a nation of good people from distant shores, we should urge our leaders to heed the lesson of the flight attendant,
who in case of emergency tells the parent to attach the oxygen mask first, before placing it on the child.

We have a light here, you and I, a light that has guided many.  Call it what you will -- Freedom, Opportunity, relief from a despotic creep. It seems to me if we don't start taking care of ourselves first, that light could dim, maybe go out.

What then, for those good people on distant shores? 
What will they see, where will they turn, what darkness might they face if our light goes out?

-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat