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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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There’s always a cost, regardless of action

Issac J. Bailey Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News

The messages come via e-mail or in white handwritten envelopes every couple of weeks. And with growing frequency, I read only the first few sentences before pressing delete or tossing them in the wastebasket.

I’ve come to believe that those messages aren’t worth serious consideration. They all make the argument that the United States is an unrepentant bully trying to occupy the world and that terrorists have no way to fight our encroachment, other than to indiscriminately kill innocent people.

In other words, we are the cause of terrorist attacks – because we are arrogant and have an insatiable thirst for oil.

The people who send those messages, sometimes signing their names, sometimes not, think President Bush is evil enough to send troops to their deaths over a tradable commodity. He would have to be operating from a place of evil to think such a thing.

Can you think of a worse accusation? I can’t, which is why I toss those messages out like yesterday’s trash. But I won’t pretend that because our intentions are good that only good results.

None of us is wise enough to understand the world’s complexity. That’s why we are only required to make the best decisions we can and not operate from an assumption that we can predict the future.

I’ve read estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 civilian deaths in the Iraq war, about how terrorists are using those numbers as a recruitment tool and how much more of the world hates us since we took up arms in Iraq. And that a grieved mother sitting in a Texas ditch can personalize the war in ways others can’t.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded that 60 years ago we dropped the world’s first atomic bombs on two Japanese cities that were largely inhabited by women and children — not military. And that people’s flesh melted off their bones, and that the aftermath still is being felt today, and that the death toll reached some 300,000.

I’ve been reminded that many of us believe such a deed was necessary, that it saved lives and hastened an end to war. But we must remember — even though the terrorists don’t — that “collateral damage” means someone’s mother or father or son or daughter has died and that grieving and anger result from such carnage.

We must never forget that, no matter how justified our decisions, there will be unintended consequences. Unintended consequences when we act. And unintended consequences when we don’t.

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