Monday, February 25, 2008

BATTLE COMPANY: THE ON-GOING TRAGEDY IN AFGHANISTAN

You really have to read this article from the New York Times Magazine first. It's long, but not too long. It's important - very, very important. It will upset you, but you have to read it in order to honor those who are the subjects.

And then I hope you'll be angry. Really angry. Really pissed off! And I hope you'll write letters, make phone calls, talk to people you know.

Journalist Elizabeth Rubin has written about her time with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Battle Company, in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. She has held nothing back; she has spared few details. She has told it like it is, every day and every night, for this small group of U.S. soldiers. She describes the mental anguish, the fatigue, the simmering hatred, the moral conflicts, and the death that permeates the lives of these young people who are serving their country.

This "global war on terror" has gone to hell in a hand basket. Our troops are living in hell, and many come home in a hand basket. Why? How did it get to be like this? What is the purpose? What can be done now? Ask these questions! Demand answers!

The cost of the "Global War on Terror" since September 2001, according to a 2008 estimate by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), is about $700 billion ($700,000,000,000). About 75% of this amount ($526 billion) has gone to Operation Iraqi Freedom (the invasion and on-going occupation of Iraq); about 20% ($140 billion) to Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan and other counter-terror operations), about 4% ($28 billion) to Operation Noble Eagle (military base security), and leaving about 1% ($5 billion) that CRS cannot allocate.

About 94% of the $700 billion has gone to the Department of Defense, 6% has gone for foreign aid programs and embassy operations. Less than 1% has gone to medical care for veterans.

The members of Battle Company whose stories are told in the NY Times Magazine article deserve our praise for their brave service and their many sacrifices. At the same time, the Bush Administration deserves our scorn and the wrath of the people for putting our military people in a situation that can no longer be won. The Bushies blew it - big time. They took their eyes off the ball and put their heads into a different game, one that was not as important. The reports I've read say that only Kabul is relatively secure in Afghanistan - the remainder of the country is in turmoil, and getting worse. Our presence there is a lost cause; a military solution isn't and can't work anymore. Read the article.
The voting citizens of the United States need to lAunch our own war - the War on the War on Terror. We need to wage this war on two fronts:
1. Put pressure on the three presidential candidates left standing to develop clear policies for ending the Iraq debacle while at the same time fixing the situation in Afghanistan and creating a realistic policy for fighting terrorism. We should demand alternatives that do not rely on more military actions, more troops on the ground, more weapons - Iraq and Afghanistan have proven the ineffectiveness of these. Villagers in Afghanistan don't side with the Americans when we bomb their villages and kill their women and children (read the article). We can't win against an insurgency. A much larger percentage of the billions being spent should go to non-violent foreign policy, with programs designed to help people improve their lives and choose stability and security over terror and fanaticism.
2. Demand from our elected representatives that they initiate impeachment hearings immediately for George W. Bush and Lord Darth Cheney. At a minimum, the lies and deceptions and illegalities perpetrated by these men and their underlings must be exposed to the light of day. Whether or not they are impeached, the goal is to clearly show what is wrong so that we can avoid similar deceptions in the future. The needless sacrificing of our military men and women is not the only casualty of this administration; the blatant disregard of our Constitution is the underlying, and more far-reaching tragedy played out by these men.

Read the article by Ms. Ruben. Channel your feelings of anger and frustration into political action. We live in a democracy, a fact that our present leaders have ignored for too long.

Comments here are welcomed. Suggestions for action are solicited.

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