Americans (and others) are fighting and dying in Afghanistan: for what? We don’t really know what we want!

    The kids from the old community are all grown up now. Some I see or talk to or write to from time to time –they are mostly the ones who left “group-think” behind and struck out on their own (as I did myself these many years ago.) Others –for a variety of reasons– stuck with their parents and what was left of the old guard. It was not that easy to be in touch with them because of the “loyalty”. So I followed their progress “once removed’, so to speak.
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    It’s probably true to say that there are always some hard and unresolved feelings surrounding such connections (and severances). Whatever the feelings –mine or others–they were not relevant to my relationships with the kids –the next generation– that I myself had been so involved with…back in the days.
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    But it is definitely true to say that I do take pride in the personal evolution of the first group of kids. They struck out on their own; their achievements are their own. Often their parents came from relatively privileged backgrounds, with privileged educations, but the community –for a variety of reasons, some to do with community-hubris, and some with more psychological or societal “under-pinnings” — had no such educational priorities or aspirations for the children we all brought into the world.
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    Many of the kids who struck out on their own were very much on their own. For them to leave the community always somehow seemed to carry a suggestion of betrayal with it — probably not spoken, but it was there. This made the achievements of the ones who struck out, all the more commendable. One, for example, became a doctor; another a teacher, and so on.
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    One became a Captain in the Marines, serving some tours of duty in Afghanistan. He wrote long emails to his friends back home describing his time there, his military service there (–some of it could hardly have been more arduous–), and his thoughts about being there.
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    Obviously, as a captain in the marines, he was responsible for a body of soldiers, his men. It is clear from his long and detailed emails, that they were lucky to have him as their captain –he led them, and motivated them, and cared for them in a powerful and low-key way.
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    His service in Afghanistan ended early last year, so I can say he was there for the latter George W. Bush years. In other words, before Obama.
    He wrote well –directly in his own personal versions of military, unadorned prose. Insightful, philosophic even. He did not shrink from the realities; like a captaim leading his marines in the field of battle, he could not afford to.
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    And reading his emails from the front, so to speak, one felt challenged to take in this reality, to adjust to it. One knew instinctively that nothing else but the reality really mattered.
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    But there was something else very interesting about reading his emails from the front, and it was this: even at this remove, in the (relative) calm of New York it amazed me how one could be in touch with the war in Afghanistan, could read the signs, the fading enthusiasms; could interpret all the things that happened, and –often much more important, and to the point– the things that didn’t happen.
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    And with Afghanistan –as with many other things– it was those “things-that-didn’t happen” that came to assume more and more importance.
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    I won’t here quote my friend (who remains anonymous) at any length. I will not here tell his stories of matter-of-fact bravery, and caring, and war-wisdom (in the face of a Taliban enemy that he described as a ferocious fighting force) and intelligence, and heartbreak at the loss of one or other of the men entrusted to his leadership.
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    But it is clear to me that he felt betrayed (though he probably would never have used the word “betrayed”) by the administration of George W. Bush.
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    Judge for yourself: this is the last paragraph of his last email to us, written in the spring of 2008 –just as our big fight for the presidency was moving into gear:
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    “And so I leave Afghanistan, proud to have served here and ready to return again….I am happy with my service but unsure if NATO and the US have a winning strategy in this country. Ask any service member here and they will tell you that Afghanistan is the forgotten war. The Taliban and Al Qaeda (the perpetrators of 9/11) are here and across the border in Pakistan but we have made this war secondary to Iraq. When will the nation and the international community commit to this war and justify the sweat, blood, and tears shed by my team, the men of the xxxxxx, and every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine who has fought in Afghanistan? Not soon enough is my guess.
    Sincerely,……..
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    [And our quiet, reasonable, hero signs off.]
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    I feel it shaming to read his account –and there are many other instances more detailed and more poignant in among his many emails. I feel that we all betrayed him and his colleagues in a war in which he and his colleagues selflessly risked their lives in, while we at home forgot him and Afghanistan.
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    We had more important things to do: there was –among other things– an economy to ruin in a selfish and shameful game of unregulated risk and bailout and bonus.
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    Our greedy fiscal “heroes” at home –every bit as ferocious as the Taliban in their unregulated war against the welfare of the nation– threw themselves off the risky cliffs and dared the Government not to catch them.
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    And now it is Barack Obama’s turn. It is going to be very difficult for him. A war that George Bush should have completed in months (before he betrayed us all by switching inexplicably to Iraq) is still going eight years later. The Taliban, once weak and tenuous, is now powerful and confident and well entrenched. A formidable foe for us, especially since we now find ourselves without a strategy, without a clear plan, without an intention. We don’t know what we want: meanwhile more Americans are dying there than ever before.
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    At one point Barack Obama said he was turning his attention to winning the war in Afghanistan; he would “be out”, he said, “in 18 months”.
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    My own “email-intelligence” told it was not possible to name an end-of-war date. The Taliban would return the day after the departure: it was as simple as that. There is much pressure on Obama to “make up his mind” –to stick ongoingly with the war, or to pull out now.
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    And what? Hand the country to the Taliban? And a victory to Osama bin Laden & Al Qaeda? You can hear the questions already. Now we turn our attention back to the war we had forgotten –now that there is a difficult situation for Barack Obama, and a huge potential embarrassment. A media game to divert us.
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    Is there anything that we really care about? Anything that we are serious about? Anything that we would commit to?
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    A few good and serious men –some Democrats, some Republicans– could speak out. They could turn it.


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One Response to “Americans (and others) are fighting and dying in Afghanistan: for what? We don’t really know what we want!”

  1. Kevin McEneaney

    We are in Afghanistan for the followings reasons:
    1. We want to build the pipeline.
    2. To insure the stability of Pakistan.
    3. To build military bases on the border of China and Russia.
    4. To get the uranium in southern Afghanistan.
    5. To possibly create a seperate state for the Baluchs in southern Afghanistan and neighboring Iran.