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‘War’ covers a multitude of sins and over-the-top charges

May 20, 2019

Let us consider the word “war.” It’s all over the place (including in a Michael Gerson column on this same page).

Yes, it’s currently top of mind because honest-to-badness war is happening. We’re still in Afghanistan after 18 bloody years, with no end apparently in sight. We’re mopping up, or have mopped up, ISIS in Syria, withdrawal apparently imminent. All options are allegedly on the table when it comes to poor, suffering Venezuela. And looming, we’re told, is trading missiles with Iran and maybe even using ground troops. To which there are obvious responses. Among them: You gotta be kidding.

Enough already. Afghanistan threatens to become our forever war. We mustn’t let it.

In Syria, even with ISIS vanquished (but not everywhere), the monster Bashar Assad who uses chemical weapons on his own people remains. And a fuller war there is still unthinkable, quagmire and a clash with Russia written all over it.

Venezuela? Military intervention only helps Nicolás Maduro hang onto power and turns our allies in the quest to force him out into his best buds.

And with Iran, the hawks are seeing long-standing threats suddenly transformed into imminent danger, causing them to loudly thump those war drums — risking an “accidental” war or conflict we simply drift into.

But let’s consider the term — war — more generally. For instance, there’s the war on drugs and then there’s the trade war. And there are instances in which the word “war” is never used, but strategic verbiage still gets the message across. Immigration comes to mind.

There is danger when we use that word or words that pretty much amount to the same thing. We set up red lines in the sand and us-and-them characterizations — you’re with us or with those dirty so-and-sos. War denotes the need for full-on mobilization, all carnage-producing tools in our war belt employed.

So, just recently, while the word “war” wasn’t used that I could notice, the mindset was clearly in evidence. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared dead in the Senate a House bill that would have commonsensically reduced the penalty for small amounts of marijuana.

Horrors! Therein lies the path to — gasp and deep shudders — full legalization of marijuana. And then presumably other horrors follow, an expanded tax base that pays for schools and other needed services never mentioned among them.

Sorry, all this bill does is take people who shouldn’t be there out of overcrowded jails so they can take care of their families and their jobs and not clog up a system better used for people who harm other people.

And speaking of forever wars, our war on drugs has been around as long as I’ve been cognizant that drugs were, well, all around — a child of the ’60s and ’70s, you know. And we’ve been losing this war since I’ve gained that cognition.

In forever wars, losing — or at least not winning — seems to be the point, constituting a full-employment-and-funding act in some quarters. And in others, forever talking about the need for the war is the means to show how “tough” they are. And the rest of us are really dumb for listening to them.

Trade war with China? So far, we’ve witnessed plunging markets, ailing U.S. farmers besieged by tit-for-tat tariffs, U.S. manufacturers paying more for the materials they need, and U.S. consumers — not China — actually paying those tariffs. But, in war, you know, sacrifices must be made. Another bailout — commonly called welfare in other circumstances — is coming for you, farmers (though not likely making you whole). But you others, suck it up. This is war!

That term trade war is being used more often by my fellow journalists than anyone else, but that’s because it’s an apt description — the president’s bellicose actions making the point. Yes, China is employing unfair trade practices, but there are better ways of handling this.

Immigration? According to the president, asylum-seekers are lurking gangbangers. Oh, yes, and we’re too “full” for more brown people anyway. Other migrants are similarly described as criminals, rapists, breeders and infestations. Taking away our jobs? OK, you pick my fruits and veggies. Let them come in “legally”? Sure, how about we develop a system that actually gives them a shot at doing that. Oh, yes, too many are from (expletive)hole countries, according to the president. Right, no us-and-dirty-so-and-so characterizations employed at all.

So, because I’m a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I’ll borrow this lyric: “War, what is it good for?” When it comes to drugs, trade and immigration, I agree with Edwin Starr, “absolutely nothing.”

o.ricardo.pimentel@express-news.

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