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Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

Whose shared sacrifice?

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WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- Thanks to The Washington Post's Sylvia Moreno, we learn that then-19-year-old Marty G. Mortenson of Flagstaff, Arizona, enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 2002.

He would spend his 20th, 21st and 22nd birthdays on three separate tours with the Marines in Iraq.

During the Vietnam War -- when the American Army had more three times as many soldiers under arms as it does today -- Americans in the military were limited to one tour of duty in Southeast Asia of 13 months.

Before his third tour, Marty Mortenson told a friend in California: "It's like three strikes, you're out. I have a feeling I'm not going to come home."

On April 20, an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded on the road to Ramadi near the Humvee in which both Lance Cpl. Marty Mortenson and Cpl. Kelly M. Cannan, also on his third tour in Iraq, were riding. Marines Mortenson and Cannan are now two of the more than 1,700 Americans killed in Iraq.

On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush said, "War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice." Since the war began, the president has spoken repeatedly of the need to "honor the sacrifice" of those who serve.

One week before the war began, House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, in a speech to bankers declared, "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes."

At the start of the Nixon administration, Attorney General John Mitchell urged reporters to, "Watch what we do, not what we say." On any question of shared sacrifice in wartime, this Bush administration has done exactly what Tom Delay told it to!

This is not in the great American tradition. The federal income tax and inheritance tax -- the same one Bush and DeLay are now committed to repealing -- were passed by Congress to pay for the Civil War and became law under the signature of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

President William McKinley, another Republican, increased federal taxes to cover the costs of the Spanish-American War, just as President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, would later do to pay for World War I. Generations of patriotic Americans understood and accepted that there is truly no moral authority like that of sacrifice.

In this war, the nation's leadership has asked everything of the brave few who both serve and sacrifice -- and their loved ones -- while asking almost nothing of everybody else.

The United States has already spent $192 billion on the war and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the continued occupation of Iraq for another eight years will cost an additional $200 billion.

Faced with a far less serious deterioration in his budget situation in 1982, President Ronald W. Reagan cut back his tax cuts.

But not the Bush-Cheney-DeLay administration. Consider the two tax-cut measures that will phase in starting next year.

Both repeal taxes enacted in 1990 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, as part of that year's bipartisan deficit reduction package, and dealt with limitations on itemized deductions available to high-income taxpayers and personal exemptions for households with very high incomes.

The Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution estimates that a majority of the tax cuts -- 54 percent -- will go to households with incomes of more than $1 million a year. That is the top 0.2 percent of households.

Another 43 percent of the tax-cut benefits go to the 3.5 percent of households with income between $200,000 and $1 million.

You do the math: 97 percent of all the benefits will go to the richest 3.7 percent of American households. Today's grown-ups continue to shift the heavy burden of paying for this war to the nation's children. Some family values.

On April 27, five hundred mourners filled Flagstaff Christian Fellowship for the funeral of Lance Cpl. Marty G. Mortenson.

There were letters of condolence for his family from local officials and the president. But there is no record that anyone chose to quote the wisdom of Leader DeLay: "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes."

To find out more about Mark Shields, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.


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