Ten Years in Afghanistan: America’s Marks A Milestone With a Shrug and a Shutter

Today, our country passes an important anniversary, which (unlike the 9-11 anniversary) will be largely ignored by politicians and the White House. We have now been in Afghanistan for ten years. That’s right, ten years. We have had 2 million troops in the country and lost roughly 1,700 lives. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet, the President and other politicians would prefer to have the anniversary pass without much notice for good reason. It has been a disaster and it is not improving. In the meantime, the public is heavily opposed to our presence in the country. In the meantime, a general has used the anniversary to assure the American people we are now halfway to meeting our goals.

We have now been in Afghanistan longer than any prior war from the Revolutionary War to World War II to Vietnam. Yet, the American people are still unsure why we are there while their leaders shutdown vital educational, scientific, environmental and social programs for lack of funding at home. Polls show 6 out of 10 people want us out of Afghanistan, but it does not seem to matter. This year alone Afghanistan will cost over $116 billion. President Obama has set a date of 2013, which will guarantee more loss of life and money in this ill-conceived war.

The reasons for going into Afghanistan were credible after the Taliban gave Bin Laden shelter, but many of us questioned the need for a full-scale invasion. Even if such an invasion were needed, many of us opposed remaining in the country that has spent hundreds of years in bloody civil wars and conflict. From the outset, our objectives were dangerously ill-defined. If we were hunting Bin Laden, it seemed akin to Blackjack Pershing chasing Pancho Villa with the U.S. Army in Mexico — an unlikely goal. When the Bush Administration did trap Bin Laden in Tora Bora, it proceeded to allow him to escape.

If we were there to fight Al Qaeda, it contradicted the statements of the Bush Administration that the terror group would have to be fought in a variety of countries and forced the U.S. to effectively occupy and run a shattered country.

If it was to create a new democracy, it was a fool’s errand because this country was heavily steeped in fundamentalist Islamic practices and deeply divided along clan and regional lines.

Nevertheless, once we invaded, no politician wanted to take responsibility for pulling out and claiming anything other than victory. So we have continued to lose lives and spend billions while the country descended into grotesque corruption (here) and hardens its religious-based laws against women and minorities. To try to achieve any level of peace, we are now trying to hand over parts of the country to the Taliban and extremist religious groups.

Our invasion on Oct. 7, 2001 was loosely defined as “denying a safe haven for Al Qaeda,” though we knew the group was working around the world and that terrorist groups tend to move more freely than a regular army. Bush then pushed us into a war in Iraq based on false intelligence and claims. That war is also continuing and has claimed nearly 4,500 U.S. lives. Both wars have resulted in tens of thousands of wounded military personnel.

Afghan leaders repeatedly have called for us to leave the country. The corrupt president of the country has repeatedly called the West an enemy, stripped women of protections, expressed a desire to be with the Taliban, and sought to tax even the aid to his country.

It is a rather sad anniversary. But the saddest aspect is the desire of our leaders to ignore it. Ending the war made little sense for politicians in either party who wanted to avoid accusations of being soft or defeatist. The result is a conflict that history will likely record as either a folly or a failure — a tragic example of how politicians are often quick to start wars but often lack the character or conscience to end them.

Of course, the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks was an irresistible temptation for politicians who fell over each other to get to the front of public events and photo ops. Even ten years later, politicians relished the opportunity to give tough-on-terror speeches and proclaim their hawkish records on terror. In contrast, the Afghanistan war is a subject no one wants to talk about. We keep it out of sight and out of mind — like a trunk in the attic. We will mark the anniversary with a collective shrug and move along.

Well, here is to the anniversary. Ten years and going strong.

43 thoughts on “Ten Years in Afghanistan: America’s Marks A Milestone With a Shrug and a Shutter”

  1. Lotta Katz: “The single largest expense of the government is defense including all of the homeland stuff; Its discretionary spending. The best single first step to getting the economy back n track is to end the wars immediately and curb defense spending, cut it back to a mere shadow of its present levels.”

    Your whole post is well written.

  2. The single largest expense of the government is defense including all of the homeland stuff; Its discretionary spending. The best single first step to getting the economy back n track is to end the wars immediately and curb defense spending, cut it back to a mere shadow of its present levels. Endless wars are a function of a boated defense budget and if you want to end those wars then they need to be economically strangled.

    The best way to do that is to elect a President that is for a small defense budget and an end to the wars we have chosen to fight. The defense industry is bleeding this country dry and that we have so much money tied up in it is having a negative impact on all other government responsibilities. It is as well maintaining us as a debtor nation and skewing the entire debate over the rightful role of government in a democratic country. You can’t have an honest debate about economics without addressing the defense budget as the centerpiece of that debate.

    Who are the candidates that want to do this? Who are the pols that want to do this and can be persuaded to run? I’d vote an anti-war ticket that didn’t have Ron Paul at its head. I can though understand why Kucinich would find a great deal of common ground with him because IMO, Kucinich actually gets it. Kucinich/Sanders?

    And what Frankly and Gene said.

  3. gbk,

    Indeed, well said and in total agreement.

    War on Drugs
    War on Poverty
    War on Terror

    Culturally we seem incapable of defining and addressing a problem without putting it in the framework of war. I think this kind of cultural manifestation is in part a reflection of the shift in society from being largely agrarian pre-WWII into being largely industrial post-WWII. Because the rise in industrialization was in concert with the effort to win WWII, the propaganda instituted toward that end and the military-industrial complex’s perpetuation of that propaganda after WWII’s goals were accomplished, generations of Americans have little experience of problem solving without application of the conceptual framework of war. If the only tool you have is a hammer, after all, the world seems to be full of nails. American’s should be more mindful of their toolbox and not allow others to replace the myriad tools truly at their disposal with a box full of hammers.

  4. Rafflaw: “I can’t even imagine the fear and horror the families whose sons and daughters have dealt with multiple tours of duty have endured.”

    My cousin’s son has been career National Guard. When Military Police Units were going to Iraq, he was transferred to an MP Company across the state from his Infantry Battalion, because he’s a Deputy Sheriff. Instantly converted from Infantry Squad Leader to Military Police Sergeant, he went off to war with troops he hadn’t trained with. His company served a year and got extended 3 months – while in the airport to go home.

    When he arrived home, he returned to his Infantry Battalion, which deployed in 10 months and was also extended 3 months. He has since had a 2nd tour with his Infantry Battalion. He’s had 42 months in Iraq and 9 months spent in 3-month predeployment trips for refresher training.

    This “weekend warrior” has been in combat more months than his great uncles of WWII. He received a Bronze Star for a battle role.

    His unit deploys again next year. He has 20 years in February. He’ll retire, rather than tempt fate with a 4th trip.

    One of my sons just returned from 12 months in Iraq. We were holding our breath every time the phone rang.

  5. rafflaw,

    It’s bad when one has to correct the corrections…

    That should have been “I’m happy…”, noT “I happy”… 🙂

    And I’d like them all to come home…

  6. rafflaw,

    That should have been “I’m happy…”, no I happy… 🙂

    And I’d like them all to come home…

  7. I wanted to add something to make my meaning more clear. The other half of the false paradigm we live under is: “Republicans are good, Democrats are evil”. Each partisan believes one part of this paradigm. It is essential for the ruling elites to inculcate these lies as truth so they can keep people in line, never questioning and getting to the root causes of the problems we face.

  8. McChrystal was on the BBC yesterday claiming we were half way through the war. That’s still a lie but less of a lie than we hear from the govt. which claims we’ll always be out “real soon”.

    I was speaking to some students at u of michigan yesterday. I honestly didn’t get the impression they understood anything about this war. These are wealthy kids who had every privilege in life. Since it is about 1 percent of our population who fights in this war, and those people are primarily drawn from the working, middle and poor classes, it just made me feel so sad. I see how the ruling elites perpetuate their complete disconnect from the rest of society. Their “education” does not include information about the “lower orders” and embarrassing details of the ruling elite’s ideological based financial and war failures.

    This war was begun for no good reason. Afghanistan was willing to hand over OBL to a neutral court of law. Because our nation was run by utterly depraved individuals they purposely chose the path of war. It has served them well financially. That we have killed and wounded so many both here and abroad means absolutely nothing to the elites. The money they make funding every side of this war, on the drug trade, and on their pretend humanitarian missions increases each year. The figures are staggering. Ralph Nader puts it at $30 million per hour for war funding. A study from Brown U. puts the cost of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan at 4.2 trillion.

    In addition to money and the destruction of human life, we have lost something else very dear in this nation–the rule of law. We now have a president willing to kill US citizens on his own say so. There is little objection to the loss of rights which formed the basis of trying to bring about a better society.

    Like others, I take heart in OWS. Being able to circumvent the false paradigm of: “Republicans are evil and Democrats are good” and see through to the truth is essential in tackling the immense corruption and cruelty of the elites who are running the nation into the ground.

  9. Nice link OS. In March we will be at Arlington for my Dad’s memorial service. 61 years after the crash, but well deserved. I do not know what I would do if I was in that procession.

  10. lottakatz 1, October 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Anon nurse, don’t worry, he’s on the hit list 😉




    “This country is addicted to war, and until we realize this and insist that our financial system and priorities as a culture are directed to endeavors more gracious all is naught.” -gbk

    In a nutshell.


    I can’t even imagine the fear and horror the families whose sons and daughters have dealt with multiple tours of duty have endured. And for what? -rafflaw

    Nor can I… It’s such a terrible waste… (Thankfully, your son is home. I happy for you.)

  11. raff,

    Every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine lost has been so honored. There are way too many IGTNT diaries, page after page. If your son lost any buddies, he can find their names in those pages.

    The ones who had children are some of the hardest to read.

    You might be interested in this one, which was a meta diary written by myself and two others. It gives some background. There had been a rash of anti-war types complaining about the IGTNT diaries, and my friends Robin (rb137) and Bear (llbear) wanted to set them straight.


  12. OS,
    I enjoyed the IGTNT article. Especially the story on the Korean War soldier. It reminds me a little of my Dad’s story.

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