Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.
Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.
We have about 16,000 military there at the moment - down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.
The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.
When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out - in just the last year - $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!
Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?
In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.
Afghans - who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago - wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other - and one nation or another - since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one - not even one - left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally - to his shame - has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.
The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are - and have been for years - unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.
Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”
Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.
Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.
Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.
Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.
Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?
Why can’t we learn? Why?