Memorial Day 2013: Remember the fallen, bring home the living

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Laura Youngblood, widow of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Travis L. Youngblood, touches his grave stone while visiting his grave in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery during the Memorial Day weekend in Arlington, Virginia, May 24, 2009. Youngblood died of wounds received in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July of 2005 in Iraq. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS MILITARY)

Sometimes there is no risk in stating the obvious. Memorial Day isn't just a time for cookouts and the (frigid, this year) beach. Everyone should at least pause and reflect upon the sacrifice of the men and women who were called to serve the country -- and paid the ultimate price. Our world would be a different -- and much worse -- place if soldiers had not fought and died in places like Gettysburg and Omaha Beach. All Americans are grateful, not just this weekend but every day.

But it's just as important to remember that all wars aren't created equal. Some are necessary, but others are ill-advised, especially after America morphed into a security state with interpretations of the national interest that our Founding Fathers would not have recognized. This weekend, I wrote an op-ed for CNN.com on the so-called "forever war" that began after 9.11. Some have actually insisted it should last for 10 or 20 more years, at least. I disagree -- here's an excerpt:

The Pentagon official told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, that the war against terrorism "is going to go on for quite a while, and, yes, beyond the second term of the president," adding a second later, "at least 10 to 20 years."

That's mind-numbing. The Pentagon believes that we could still be fighting the conflict that began on 9/11 in the year 2033. It's hard to even find the right analogy. Imagine if U.S. involvement in World War II that began at Pearl Harbor was still taking place in 1973, a long strange trip from the Andrews Sisters to Led Zeppelin. I'm the parent of a 20-year-old -- will I be telling my grandson someday not to worry, that the war should be over before he hits draft age?

The "forever war" might be defensible is it were making you, me and all other Americans safer. The cold reality is that the effect has been the opposite, that the increasing length and scope of the war puts us at greater risk.

The trillions of dollars in debt to pay for the war has left us in deeper hock to China and other foreign creditors. At home, or "the homeland" as it came to be called, the war has been used to justify a flurry of civil rights abuses, including warrantless wiretaps and monitoring of e-mails, harassing whistle-blowers and clamping down on press freedom.

Please read the whole thing. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. And remember, one of the best ways to honor our troops is not to send them into combat when it's no longer necessary.

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