The stealth war

If you’re out driving this Sunday — to the mall, a tattoo consultation, a hair-removal appointment, a laptop upgrade — and you see large crowds of people gathered in parks and around public monuments, you might want to pull over and check out the signs and listen to the speeches.

They will be about peace and an end to the war. You know, the one in Iraq — three years, tens of thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, civil war looming.

Yup, three years and heading for four and five and six. If you’re really into the numbers, you can tune into Keith Olbermann every weeknight on MSNBC. He ends his show with the number of days since President Bush did his Roger Ramjet routine and landed on the aircraft carrier where the “Mission Accomplished” banner had been put up by his advance team.

Olbermann throws out that number in what has become for many a frustrating need to keep reminding people that there really is a war going on and people really are dying.

Otherwise, people might be wondering more about the state of Tony Soprano’s life and death struggle than that of the 18-year-old Marine whose life just got changed forever by a roadside bomb.

Or maybe a lot of people already do. Heck, Tony and the family have been front page news lately just for showing up on HBO. There are viewers with some serious emotional investment in how the TV mobsters do the things they do.

As a very perceptive letter writer pointed out recently to The Providence Journal, the war seems to have been moved to the inside pages, if it is anywhere at all.

This really is the stealth war, not well reported and too easily ignored among so many things that are so much more fun. Compared to Vietnam _ and the comparison becomes more valid by the day _ it has little claim on public attention or public concern.

Vietnam was also waged for reasons later proved false. In that war, too, we completely failed to understand the enemy. And politics too often trumped military wisdom.

But the Vietnam War was in our living rooms every night. Reporters were all over the place. They would sometimes show up right next to the soldiers and Marines in the middle of the madness.

The Iraq war and its dirty little turf battles are not with us at all on too many days.

So on Sunday _ and in some places on Saturday _ people will gather to confront the hideous mistake in Iraq and mark the third anniversary of its dubious beginning.

They will listen to speeches and some music and fulfill the need to be there and remind us of the unacceptable cost of an adventure pursued for the wrong reasons in the wrong way in the wrong place.

The rallies will be held in a bunch of towns and cities. You won’t have to travel far to gather with your neighbors and consider the damage that has been done and how it might be repaired.

You might want to find a rally near you and think and talk about this war that is too easily pushed aside.

Unless, of course, your team is playing on television or the weather’s really nice or …

(Bob Kerr is a columnist for The Providence Journal. E-mail bkerr(at)