The Democratic View: No battle is ever won


As I write on Memorial Day 2019, I am reminded that we have lost nearly 7,000 working service members since 9/11. Although most of the terrorists who struck the United States that day came from Saudi Arabia, and the others were natives of Lebanon, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, those are not countries with which we were ever at war. Instead, we fought in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan, and we dipped into Syria and Yemen, and today we are sending troops to threaten Iran, which is, ironically, the Saudis’ main rival. Just last week, the president bypassed Congress to earmark $2 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

A May Reuters poll claims that half of all Americans expect that the United States will go to war with Iran within the next few years. A majority see Iran as a serious threat.

How did this happen? How did we go so quickly from “No more U.S. involvement in the Middle East” to “Iran is a clear and present danger”? Who really wants this fight?

The “permanent armaments industry” that grew up during the Cold War continues to hold us in thrall, just as Eisenhower warned in the final speech of his presidency. The number of employees in the defense industry keeps growing. The amount we spend on defense is 49 times what Iran spends; indeed, it is more than one-third of the total spent on arms and defense worldwide. Since we are not really playing “defense” in any real sense of that word, it seems to be incumbent on us to use that enormous expenditure aggressively. Thus the endless war in Afghanistan, and now the saber-rattling over Iran. No battle is ever won, and our intervention may be based on the flimsiest of excuses and lies as long as it justifies our bankrolling of the military-industrial complex and increases our bottom line.

Roe v. Wade

As I’ve said before, we tend to be complacent about our rights once we win them. Voting rights, check. Marriage equality, check. School integration, check. We seldom look back to assess whether those rights we gained are really functioning as desired. But even as we wag a finger at places like China, the Trump administration is rolling back U.S. human and civil rights at a blinding clip. Some rollbacks are blatant—banning Muslims, restricting transgender military service, building a wall. Most are quiet and underhanded, as in the latest attempt to eliminate disparate-impact discrimination regulations under the Fair Housing Act. And then there’s abortion.

Abortion was legal in the United States until the late 1800s, when states began to write regulations restricting the procedure. When my grandmother was having her two children, abortion among women of a certain class was illicit but still quite common, because birth control was not yet very effective. Among women in poverty, abortion was equally frequent but far more dangerous. At that time, according to later studies, licensed U.S. doctors performed about 800,000 abortions a year, and presumably many additional abortions were the self-induced sort that were often the only options for the poor.

In 1967, some states began to decriminalize abortion, leading up to Roe in 1973, by which time 20 states already allowed abortion under certain circumstances. One result of Roe was that abortion typically happened sooner after conception than it had in the past. There was a brief jump in the number of abortions and then a decline as long-acting contraception became more readily available.

For 46 years, people were complacent about Roe, despite case after case that chipped away at the original decision. But no battle is ever won, and victory is an illusion, whether the conflict you’re ignoring is unending Middle East intervention or the struggle to maintain control of your reproductive rights. Georgia’s proposed limitations on abortion are stricter than those in the theocracy of Iran. Yet 70 percent of Americans, including most Republicans, oppose overturning Roe. Who really wants this fight?

Either we wake up to this ongoing erosion of our rights and powers to decide, or we settle for allowing our freedoms to be stripped in the name of fortune and faith.

The Dryden Democrats will hold a caucus to choose candidates for town offices on June 24 at 7:30 upstairs in Dryden Village Hall, 16 South Street. All registered Democrats from the Town of Dryden are encouraged to attend this town-meeting-style event.

Locally, only Enfield and Danby will hold primaries this year. The date is Tuesday, June 25, and all registered Democrats from those two towns may vote at their regular polling sites from noon until 9. Sample ballots are available on the Board of Elections website:

Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at The Republican View will be published in the final edition of each month.


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