OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - Getting Commoners to Do the Dying


By Tony Russell

Romney Brothers Volunteer for Fight in Iraq

At a hastily called news conference, Republican presidential hopeful Willard M. ("Mitt") Romney's five sons issued a joint announcement that they are volunteering en masse for combat missions overseas.

The brothers' decision followed close on the heels of a highly-publicized exchange at one of Romney's "Ask Mitt Anything" events in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Rachel Griffiths asked Romney at a campaign breakfast how many of his five adult sons were serving in the military. Romney responded that his none of his sons had chosen to join the military, but they were serving in other ways. "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president," he explained.

More than one commentator has remarked that Romney seems to have confused self-promotion with serving the nation.

With obvious embarrassment, Tagg Romney, the candidate's eldest son, said, "I'm sorry that it took a question at a campaign event to help us realize that we need to put our bodies where our mouths are. Dad has been supportive of the war and of President Bush's 'surge' policy, and it was embarrassing to see him put on the spot like that. Other people's sons and daughters are being blown up or mutilated by roadside bombs or poisoned by depleted uranium or hit with post-traumatic stress disorder, and here we are living the good life and chasing all the power and prestige of the presidency for our family, without making any sacrifice at all for our country. How self-centered does that sound?"

His brother Matt Romney spoke from a different perspective, but also emphasized the idea of service. "Dad and Mom are worth a quarter of a billion dollars. Maybe more. I haven't checked with them lately on a precise amount, but I can tell you this: people all over the country are losing their homes every day because they can't make mortgage payments, while our folks luxuriate in beautiful homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Utah. I'm a commercial real estate developer in San Diego, and I know what property is worth. This nation has been good to us, and we feel as if we ought to give it our combat service in return." He added, "It's funny how you don't think of things like that when you're so busy making millions. It's time to shed our Gucci's and hike a mile in somebody else's combat boots."

Josh Romney shared his brothers' new convictions. "Traveling around the country to stage events on Dad's behalf, wearing expensive suits, living in a Winnebago and hobnobbing with real string pullers and power brokers—this high living has suddenly lost all its attraction. My eyes have been opened. I'd much rather be living in a tent in the desert, halfway around the world from everybody I love, blistering under 120 degree heat, eating canned rations, and sweating under the constant threat of death. I can hardly wait to put on my uniform."

Ben Romney sounded the same note. "If Dad wants to put other young men and women overseas, risking their lives to assure American corporations a grip on Iraqi oil, we think we ought to be risking our necks too. I'm sure Dad wouldn't want it any other way. Medical school can be put on hold."

Craig, the youngest of the five brothers, added, "We realized that we're not alone in this. In fact, it's not really about us at all. We're just emblematic of a larger reality. The whole upper echelon of government—Congress, cabinet members, other people in the administration—virtually none of them have sons or daughters actually fighting the war our government started. We're like a privileged class that gets commoners to do the dying for them.

"We intend not just to set an example, but actually to go out and act as volunteer recruiters among our peer group," said Craig. "We expect to enlist an entire combat brigade to take some of the stress off those troops in Iraq who are doing their third or fourth tour of duty. I don't know why we didn't see the need to share the suffering before now. It's almost as if we were brainwashed."

© Tony Russell, 2007

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