The Afghanistan War. War itself is inherently immoral, but especially so when the fight is not between two state-sponsored militaries, but rather between a military superpower and a third-world country with 70% of its populace living in rural areas without electricity or running water and whose citizens do not even know why they are being attacked. It has been illegal from the outset in that it was waged against a sovereign country which was no threat to us, ignoring international law, and without adequate Congressional approval. And by the DoD’s own admission, it has not been effective. In fact, many experts believe that it has been counterproductive; that by killing thousands of people and destroying property and infrastructure we are creating enemies. We are propping up a government which is as corrupt as a crime syndicate, and labeling anyone who opposes us an “insurgent,” and therefore justifying their deaths.
Now, almost ten years later, we are finally starting to see some concern on the part of the American public, Congress and the media about the Afghanistan War—but not because it is immoral, illegal, or ineffective…but because it costs too much! What does that say about us as a country, as a society—as human beings? Why are we not outraged over the deaths of Afghan children? Why are we not livid about the displacement of thousands of refugees? Why is it that Americans cannot step out of their jingoistic bubble far enough to even imagine what it is like to be on the other side of this war?
I think the answer is an American attitude of superiority and exceptionalism which is bolstered by government propaganda and media complicity. Here’s a good example–During President Obama’s recent announcement about the continuation of the Afghanistan War, he said: “We have learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan — men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the field of battle, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.”
You notice that there was no mention of the 40,000 Afghan civilians who have been killed. Not a word about the lost limbs of Afghans, or the PTSD that they live with. Of the 1500 Americans who have died in Afghanistan, none were under the age of 18. No Americans wonder if their door is going to be kicked in, or if a drone will drop a bomb on their house. Not one American has become a refugee because of this war, so no…I don’t think Americans have a clue about “profound cost of war.” And to make matters worse, the President tells us that these Americans died “defending freedom.” What audacious malarkey.
Now that we have spent well over $1 trillion for these wars of choice on Iraq and Afghanistan, (with total cost estimates up to $4 trillion) people are starting to wake up to the realities of the financial ramifications for this country. More and more Congressmen are citing economic reasons for opposing the wars, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for ending the wars so that the money saved can be used here in the U.S. All but three states have budget deficits. I am glad to see that some progress towards ending these wars is being made, but deeply saddened that the financial costs seem to be the only reason that resonates.
I would like to see resolutions passed that say that we must end these wars because they are bankrupting us morally…that the cost of war is too high for our souls. I would like to see Congressmen speak about ending these wars because the death of one Afghan child is too high a price to pay. When will we see senators eulogizing the civilians killed like they do our soldiers?
Americans must learn how to value the lives of others as equal to our own. Otherwise no amount of money will be able to buy back our loss of humanity.
Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National Vice-President of Veterans For Peace.