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Do you ever wonder how it could be that most Americans are so unconcerned, so blasé, about a U.S. war in a strange, foreign country where we have now been embroiled for nearly 10 years?
How many of us, in our daily routines, ever even hear people talking about this war, one way or the other? Either for it or against it? While the Iraq war was raging, during Bush’s last term, Afghanistan was occasionally mentioned as “the forgotten war.”
Even with the Iraq war supposedly ending - though not ending fast enough - and the long drain on the lives of our soldiers and on the billions, even trillions, of dollars we’ve spent in Afghanistan, it’s still a forgotten war in the minds of most people.
This begs a very relevant question: If nobody much seems to care, then why can’t we get out? A better question would be: What do we hope to achieve now or in the future that we haven’t been able to do in nearly 10 years and under two different presidents?
In a recent column, my colleague here, Dr. John Barnhart (title courtesy of myself), rendered yet again what may be the only half-baked reason to stay in Afghanistan. He did so with an attempt at a clever analogy about - if I read it correctly - having to break a window in order to enter his home.
Having gained entry, the doctor then faced the prospect of “cleaning up the mess” he had made. This, he went on to say, is what we must do in Afghanistan. Since we can’t “un-invade,” as he put it, we have to - again, it begs for quotations - “clean up the mess.”
Well, fine, but he left unmentioned the length and cost of the great attempt we’ve already made at doing exactly that. His clean-up might have taken 15 minutes; ours will soon be a decade old. How much more time should we invest? How many more lives? He didn’t say.
No lives were lost in the doctor’s broken window dilemma; More than 1,000 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, and the Wikkileaks documents proved that far more civilians have died there than we’ve ever been told about.
Quite simply, in Afghanistan, we have failed. We have met the same failure that every other nation has ever met when it dared to “clean up the mess” in that primitive country.
No, we can’t “un-invade,” but we can get out. The way to end the occupation is to end it. We shouldn’t lose another American life in either Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s time to leave those people to themselves.
Nor should we continue the myth that, somehow, staying in those countries is “fighting terrorism,” or “protecting our own freedoms.” Neither one of those contentions holds up under scrutiny.
We don’t have to invade countries in order to handle a few of our own home-grown terrorists. That’s the stuff of police work, not the military.
We must also begin to dramatically cut Pentagon spending, as the president’s deficit reduction commission recently recommended, and as even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said we must do.
Especially given the state of our fragile economy, we can no longer afford to fight wars of choice, wars of territorial conquest, or wars of revenge brought on by a single, long-ago terror attack.
If we’re going to increase the retirement age and scale back entitlement programs, we must certainly re-think our foreign policy, and stop the imperialistic drive to plant American flags all over the globe.
Bring the troops home, without further delay, and let’s clean up the mess in our own country.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.