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As battered, bedraggled 2011 fades away, some wishes for the new year

Now that the reindeer paws on the rooftop are about to be replaced by the whirring wings of the stork delivering the baby new year 2012, can we pause a moment between choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” and popping champagne corks to make a few wishes:

· For all the men and women finally returning home from the seemingly eternal battles in Iraq, the hero’s welcome they so richly deserve, a speedy return to careers put on hold, and a resumption of life in the warm embrace of family and loved ones.

· For all the families whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, or other loved ones were lost in Iraq — almost 4,500, according to official figures — the heartfelt sympathy of a nation that fervently hopes history will show those deaths were not in vain.

· For the more than 30,000 men and women who were wounded or horribly maimed in Iraq, many who face the remainder of their lives in medical care, many traumatized by the unspeakable horrors of what they experienced, our hope for a measure of peace, the support and love of family and friends, and a fulfillment of our government’s promises not to forget their needs.

· For the estimated 300,000 to 1 million (nobody knows for sure how many) Iraqi citizens killed in the war, the hundreds of thousands of others injured, and the many thousands who lost homes and businesses in nearly a decade of destruction, the vast majority of them innocent civilians caught in a conflict not of their making, a wish that their country will, in the years ahead, be freer, better than it was under the despotic Saddam Hussein.

· For the 200,000 U.S. diplomatic, security, and private contractor personnel remaining in Iraq, a hope for safety — and cooperation from Iraqi officials in moving the country forward.

· For the almost 3,000 U.S. military and coalition members who have died in Afghanistan, the many thousands wounded, and for those who continue to fight, die and be injured there, our gratitude for their sacrifices and a fervent wish that these battles, too, will soon come to an end and they all can return to their homes and families.

· For the millions of Americans who are saddled with paying what some project could eventually be $3 trillion in costs for the Iraq war, some concrete evidence in the months and years ahead that it was, after all, justified.

· For the almost 700,000 Americans, many of them young children, who are homeless on any given night in this country — in many cases the result of the collapse of the economy that left them jobless, foreclosed their homes, and shattered their dreams — a wish that a nation that can spend trillions of dollars on wars half a world away, with sometimes little discernible purpose, can also find ways to help these disenfranchised of its own people get back on their feet.

· For a Congress and administration that can put aside petty political posturing, bickering, and self-aggrandizement, and get down to a for-real, honest-to-goodness bipartisan effort to come up with ways to begin resolving the many problems confronting this nation as a result of a decade or more of fiscal mismanagement and failure to be good stewards.

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