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Playing With Fire

What will it take for the U.S. to stay out of senseless wars?

Two women have now done something only men have done before: They completed the training to be Army Rangers. Congratulations to Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver for boldly going where no women have ever gone before, and breaking yet another glass ceiling.

You have to be impressed that anyone can complete such an arduous feat. Days without food or sleep, hauling heavy loads, and yet they keep moving, keep alert, keep ready to fight, pushing themselves beyond physical limits that most of us New York State Fairgoers could not imagine.

This is no doubt a milestone for women to celebrate. But I can’t help but think: Couldn’t these powerful women, these strong women, go even further, and do something no man has ever been able to do before?

Like figure out how to keep us out of senseless wars?

We keep studying war and hoping for peace. We keep hearing politicians saying that war is a last resort when our budgets and our priorities say it is a first resort. Whether it’s Syria or the Mexican border, the default for national politicians is still shoot first and ask questions later.

We wonder why we can’t control the violence in our own streets. We wonder how it is that a madman with a gun and a smart phone can kill two innocents on live TV and, lSIS like, feel that he is finding immortality by uploading the evidence of his barbarity.

At sporting events it has become routine to celebrate war and warriors. I admit that I still can get misty-eyed hearing “God Bless America” at the seventh-inning stretch of each game at Yankee Stadium. That custom, begun in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks 14 years ago, assures me that those who were lost on Sept. 11, 2001, including part of my own flesh and blood, will not be forgotten.

But those tributes have morphed from commemoration to congratulation, from patriotism to propaganda. There is a huge difference between supporting those who rushed into the burning towers to supporting those who were sent to fight in Iraq.

The Iraq war is nothing to celebrate. Whether you choose to blame Bush for the way he started it or Obama for the way he ended it, our unprovoked invasion of Iraq was a disaster.

You could add another 20 candidates to the current flock of postulants for president and still not find one who calls the venture a success. The public widely believes that it was a war poorly conceived, unnecessary, and that had little or nothing to do with defending and protecting America. No amount of grandstanding and applauding our troops can camouflage that fact.

These celebrations of our troops at arenas of all shapes and sizes tug on our heartstrings. After all, the soldiers we applaud come from our own communities, and how can we not admire their selfless sacrifice?

Yet to deploy them on a baseball diamond amounts to dangerous propaganda. It reinforces the patently false premise that our recent wars were fought to defend our freedom. It reinforces the notion that the enemies we face in the world can only be defeated by military means, when recent sad history teaches us that a massive military presence does not protect us from terrorists.

And now the Syracuse University football squad invades Fort Drum. It appears to me not only ridiculous, but dangerous, to see the images young football players being allowed to fondle machine guns during a training camp with the troops at Fort Drum. They are not there just to play, but to be played.

It’s one thing to share a facility, to provide a break from the tedium for the troops. But that’s not what’s happening at Fort Drum. Like the Super Bowl flyovers and the militarized seventh-inning stretch, such mingling serves to wash the brains of a nation at play in the service of war.

Those guns are not toys. Militarism is not the same as love of country. To confuse the two endangers young lives. War is not a game, it’s not a sport. If we glorify guns and killing in the arena, we have no right to act surprised at the world we find when we exit the stadium.

Ed Griffin-Nolan

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