VoteVets had a poignant post on Instagram earlier today. That resonated with me. In the past twenty years since 9/11 we’ve been thanking active duty military and veterans for their service to the country. That’s great and truly appreciated by any veteran that received that thanks. At the same time however it has allowed the general public to perform a perfunctory service that made them feel as though they were part of the war effort.
This hasty quip is part of the feel good culture that at the same time has largely ignored the plight of military service personnel who have been called on to serve multiple tours of duty in the war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere without a shared sacrifice by the folks on the home front.
The transition from conscripted service to the all volunteer military in the United States has created an unfair situation where those who volunteer for military service are forced to serve multiple tours of duty in dangerous environments. During Vietnam most soldiers and marines served a maximum of twelve or thirteen months in combat areas before being rotated stateside or to non-combat areas.
As a veteran whenever I thank another veteran or active duty person for their service I have empathy and connection with what I’m saying. I wonder how many other folks seriously reflect on their greetings.
“War is not the answer,” is a bumper sticker I’ve frequently posted on my car. It’s from the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Never was that slogan nor the bumper sticker more appropriate than now. In the middle of our frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan we were horrified to learn that another terrorist attack had claimed the lives of twelve United States Marines and one United States Navy Hospital Corpsman. These thirteen lives are a postscript to the war on terror which of course has not ended terrorism. War can never end terrorism. War only enriches war profiteers and there are many of those folks in our own United States who are using the tragic deaths of the Marines and Corpsman to call for another invasion of Afghanistan.
Not surprisingly the call for more war is being led by Republican members of the US Congress. These are the same folks who got us in this mess in the first place. It was a Republican president and his administration who initiated this twenty year bloodbath of travail which has only exacerbated the world’s problems. I wish we had invested the trillions of dollars we’ve blown in Afghanistan and Iraq on peaceful purposes. Imagine the goodwill we could have created for the United States and the people of those war torn countries.
Afghanistan was an unwinnable war as was Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and more. It was a misadventure that was supposedly our answer the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which happened twenty years ago next month. As horrific as those attacks were invading Afghanistan and later Iraq did nothing to end international terrorism. Unfortunately it’s made it worse. Killing your enemies inevitably produces more enemies. In the past twenty years we’ve killed over two-hundred thousand Afghans. We disagree with how those folks run their country. We disagree with how they treat their citizens. The Taliban are a tragic anachronism but bombing and killing them was never a solution.
In the 1980’s when the Russians were foolish enough to try to take over that same country we provided arms and logistics to the same folks who eventually attacked us on September 11, 2001. Afghanistan was blow-back from our misguided efforts to defeat the Russians. The only Americans who have won in Afghanistan were the arms manufacturers who sold the weapons we expended their in our pursuit of the Taliban. We made some friends with some of the people and propped up regimes that were friendly to us but in the end our efforts were for naught. Thousands of American soldiers, sailors, marines and civilian contractors were killed. The emotional toll on those survivors on both sides is incalculable. Trillions of dollars were wasted and no lasting peace was achieved.
In the short run, the Republicans who got us mired in these conflicts in the first place are going to make political hay with Joe Biden. They’re going to insist he’s not acting responsibly and that this is a major strategic error. The truth is that Joe Biden is saving trillions more of our national resources and saving thousands of American military personnel from dying in a war that was never winnable. My hat is off to President Biden because he’s got the balls to say “Enough is enough.”
Afghanistan is one more instance of failed United States foreign policies which highlight the use and abuse of military force to achieve or fail to achieve political objectives. We invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Over 3000 Americans died that day. Since that day we invaded the country and until now 2,448 American soldiers have lost their lives, 3,846 civilian contractors, Afghan national and military police 66,000. Over 20,000 Americans have been wounded in action. The toll of PTSD is much higher and will continue to scar our veterans for years to come. The cost of the war is approximately $6.5 trillion dollars and the healthcare costs of Afghan and Iraq US veterans is projected to cost $2 trillion dollars. Ever since the Bush administration which began this mistaken adventure we’ve been told that all this happened to keep us safe from another attack on American soil.
According to one source over 240,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001. I wish we had all the money that has been wasted in this boondoggle which benefited war profiteers but did next to nothing to keep us safer or to promote peace in the region and throughout the world. As George Carlin once said, “fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” The Republicans are criticizing Joe Biden for ending the debacle but it was they who started this and no one until now had the courage to end it. Bravo President Biden for ending the twenty-year war in Afghanistan which did little or nothing for the lasting peace and stability of the region.
For the last several weeks we’ve been treated to non-stop coverage of one man’s infidelity to his wife. I’m not excusing Tiger Wood’s behavior, but that is a matter between he, his wife and family. I’m not sure even Bill Clinton got this much attention. There are larger issues. Affordable health care for all Americans is slipping off the table. Americans are dying everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan but that goes largely unreported while we have non-stop coverage of Tiger’s infidelity. I wonder how many of the main stream media and sportscasters in particular could stand up to the scrutiny they’ve put Tiger to. Enough! Let’s get on with real issues.
A real leader is always at the scene of the battle. Contrast Barack Obama’s tour of Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq with the leadership style of our current president. Senator McCain’s camp actually leaked the details of the trip, but Obama, a real leader went anyway and visited U.S. troops. That’s a paradigm change from our current leader who always arrives in Iraq under the cover of darkness and cloaked in secrecy.