B y Marianne Stanley
The Afghanistan War is an abomination, a travesty and a testament to all that is wrong with American foreign policy today. Woefully misnamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, it should instead be called “Operation Enduring Misery.” After 10 years, it has cost us more than $450 billion, left more than 1,800 young Americans dead, more than 16,000 wounded and hundreds of thousands emotionally and psychologically damaged. Tens of thousands of our young men and women have been grievously maimed, losing their lower limbs and genitalia in increasing numbers as the fighting forces in Afghanistan and Iraq perfect IED’s, improvised explosive devices.
Gratuitously calling these once hale and hearty men and women “heroes” and awarding them a medal in no way dries the tears or repairs the forever-broken hearts and lives of their loved ones. There is no way to tally the real human toll when that much human potential is sucked from this world forever.
This “war” is not even a war. It is an invasion of another sovereign nation; it is an occupation of someone else’s country. We don’t belong there. We should not have gone there. We have accomplished nothing except the building of more anger and hatred towards us for our inhumanity and aggression. We are creating the very terrorists we say we are trying to eliminate. Calling this a “War on Terror” is a lot like talking about the “War on Drugs”. Wars are fought against a living, breathing, identifiable “enemy” who is threatening to harm us. Terrorism is an ideology and drugs are a thing. Neither can be “conquered”. The Afghanistan War is no war since it can never in a million years be “won”. No. These “wars” are smoke screens for the money lust of our military industrial complex, a term coined by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell speech in 1961.
He warned us that this day would come unless we stayed ever vigilant and enacted laws that would make this marriage of government and industry impossible. A five-star general, Eisenhower well understood the power of an unrestrained military. He said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies…a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…” The documentary, “Why We Fight” includes his powerful speech and provides a clear overview of just how and why we have arrived at this abject moment in U.S. history.
The very fact that Republicans can talk about balancing the budget, capping the deficit and cutting federal aid to social welfare programs with a straight face while unflinchingly authorizing more than $4 trillion tax dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, shows us just how downright crazy we have become as a country.
In this time of great need in America, when 44 million Americans subsist on food stamps and more than 50 million have no access to a doctor or life saving medicines, we are spending $1 million per year for each soldier in Afghanistan. This is utter madness. Even Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-installed Afghan leader has called the war “ineffective, apart from causing civilian casualties.” Do we even care about the death and destruction we wreak on innocent Afghanis? The corporate media refuses to tell us the whole story, to show us the results of our so-called ‘War of Liberation”, to let us see the faces of the Afghanis whose homes have been violated, whose lives have been disrupted, whose peace has been denied, whose children have been killed.
The stories we are told of why we are there are blatant lies. Americans are being propagandized in the most effective way – by the telling of big lies over and over again until we all begin to believe them. Muslims are not our enemy. Islam is not a violent religion. Iraq and Afghanistan had no direct links to 9-11; the hijackers were almost all Saudi Arabians. What has happened to America as the citadel of peace and prosperity? Instead, we have embraced the diabolical idea of “preemptive war”, attacking countries who have done nothing to us. We have taken on the role of an empire, intent on broadening our reach and controlling the world for our own ends.
The very idea of spreading democracy should be repugnant to every American. We would not tolerate another nation invading us to “liberate us from democracy” so they could impose their particular form of government on us. How arrogant of us to feel entitled to impose our system on them! Nations can choose their own form of government and solve their own problems just as we did during our Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
The U.S. is bleeding 2 billion of dollars a week in Afghanistan. We cannot afford this endless war against the fierce Pashtun people who are known for making their country “the Graveyard of Empires.” Saying we are there to teach the Afghanis to fight is ludicrous; they are notorious fighters who need nothing from us except our absence from their country yet we have no plans to leave as evidenced by the permanent bases being built at Bagram, Kandahar, and Shindand. In fact, our biggest embassy in the world is in Kabul, an $800 million fortress with 1,000 personnel that is protected by a small army of mercenaries.
Violence solves nothing. Our old way of thinking solves nothing. “Occupy Wall Street” is visual evidence that we are smack dab in the middle of a paradigm shift from war to peace, from “me first” to interconnectedness and from hatred to love. And it can’t come soon enough. It is time to together birth the new world that is struggling to be born.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.