The deaths are horrific in themselves, but they have far greater meaning for us...if we are willing to learn from them.
The bizarre and unexplained recent massacre of 16 Afghanistan civilians by an American Army Sergeant is horrific in itself – but it has meaning far beyond the event. It symbolizes virtually everything wrong with the Iraqi adventure, along with this Afghanistan war, and it senseless continuance.
First, of course is the horror of civilian casualties – the inevitable tragedy of this and every war. It is variously estimated (by different reporting agencies) that between 100,000 and 1 million Iraqi civilians died in that conflict, with a reasonably hard number of about 150,000. But that is not the end of it – and the senselessness of our involvement. Because those deaths continue to this day…and will probably forever as long as there is Shiite and Sunni animosity. While we got rid of a terrible dictator, was the price to America worth it? Which brings us to our continued involvement in Afghanistan.
Here are 6 reasons why we should depart Afghanistan now.
1. Our presence in the Middle East is not only unappreciated, but counter-productive to building strong relationships in the region with the people. It is harmful to building better relations with Islam. Indeed, the “occupation” of these countries is abhorred. Consider how we would feel if a foreign power came to our country as “occupiers” and stayed for a decade or more. We actually did have that happen to us once, and we did get rid of the foreign military. It was called the Revolutionary War.
2. These regimes are notoriously inept, dictatorial, and corrupt – yet, we cannot throw enough money their way. In Afghanistan, the government is just plain obscene. It is no wonder the Taliban (who are absolutely no threat to our nation), even with their disgusting beliefs, have gained traction. Moreover, as we should have learned in Viet Nam (see below), the Taliban will be there centuries after American troops are withdrawn and this rotten venture has passed. What America’s legacy will be is graves and debt.
3. It is sometimes rationalized that we "must kill Al Qaeda fighters". Fine, but they are a small number in Afghanistan. Additionally, they retreat over the border into a now unfriendly Pakistan. We can be there for decades more and not kill them all. Why? Because Al Qaeda is an idea...a concept...a belief. You do not kill a "belief" by capturing small villages in a destitute Asian country.
4. For too long, America has been on the wrong side (and ineffective) in trying to sell democracy to the world. Whether it be the ill advised and immoral support of the dictators of South America, or the failed and costly propping up of an unpopular regime in South Viet Nam, or turning a blind eye to the corruption of the Karzai brothers. Obama lived during the Viet Nam era. It is a lesson he had to have learned...then forgot.
5. Regarding Viet Nam, I have a military friend who reminds me that in Nam we lost 58,000 dead and 300,000 wounded; but in Iraq/Afghanistan we have had "only" about 5500. Right. But then tell that to the 5500 families of the dead soldiers. More about this later.
6. The war is now costing us $140 Billion annually. Its total cost for the 10 years we have been slogging it out in Iraq/Afghanistan has been over a $1 Trillion. I gag when I hear the righteous among us who: a) urge us to press on; b) complain vociferously about our national debt and deficit financing; c) refuse to let us add any tax that might pay for the wars; d) then patriotically do their part in the war effort by pasting a little sticker on their car… "support our troops".
In addition to the aforementioned 5500 dead soldiers, we have about 30,000 wounded, and an estimated 100,000 suffering some sort of damage such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in this ten year debacle. To 99 percent of Americans, these wars have been non-events, and most of us have had zero involvement or sacrifice. Less than 1 percent of our population has bared the brunt of this mistaken adventure; and for that 1 percent, the dislocation, anxiety, and sacrifice has been extraordinarily painful. And that brings us back to why the killing of Afghan civilians is a metaphor for the senselessness of this war. The Sergeant who performed this horrible act had served 3 tours in Iraq before going to Afghanistan. His home base (Lewis McChord in Washington State) is filled with troubled soldiers. A large team of psychiatrists has been recruited to deal with this – but the root cause has proven to be repeated deployments. That must end!
Since there is so much talk these days about our Founding Fathers, consider this quote from Benjamin Franklin, which seems appropriate. Franklin wisely said: "He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas". It’s time for America to stand up, brush off the fleas, and walk away.