THINKING FOR OURSELVES
After 8 Years
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, October 18, 2009
This week the United States begins the 9th year of war in Afghanistan. On October 7, 2001, less than one month after September 11, Operation Enduring Freedom began. Sending cruise missiles from submarines in the Arabian Sea and B-52s and Stealth Bombers into the sky, the U.S. unleashed a military campaign that would soon move from Afghanistan to Iraq, and now to Pakistan.
In all these years, the United States has not acknowledged how many people we have killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. We do not keep records of civilian deaths. We do know that nearly 900 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan. We know that this year 230 have lost their lives, making 2009 the deadliest year for U.S. forces there. And we know that most international estimates count the number of Afghan civilians killed in the tens of thousands.
We have spent close to 200 billion dollars in Afghanistan in eight years. Now we are spending $2.6 billion a month there.
It seems Operation Enduring Freedom has become Operation Enduring War, with the U.S. committing itself over and over again to military engagements with no clear enemy, for no clear purpose. We find ourselves supporting governments that are despised by their own people for their corruption and incompetence, occupying lands where most of the people want us to leave.
Meanwhile, we have been creating a form of warfare that has eroded any sense of restraint. To limit opposition at home, we have hidden the costs of military commitments by combining a “volunteer” army with a vast array of paid warriors. This privatization of war has brought into being an unrestrained use of force against civilians, whether walking on the streets and unable to get out of the way of armed cars or locked in prisons, subjected to techniques that human beings renounced as torture in the Middle Ages.
We are developing weapons of massive destructive capabilities that require no human contact. Our arsenal of missiles and bombers has been augmented by high tech unmanned drones that place thousands of miles between those who operate them and those who are killed by them, resulting in horrific deaths to ordinary people just trying to survive. We have filled the world with terrors unimaginable less than a decade ago.
According to General James Jones, President Obama’s national security advisor, there are less than 100 people involved in Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet we are seemingly on the brink of committing tens of thousands more forces into the country. Al Qaeda has moved to Pakistan. If we follow them there, they will simply move again.
It should be painfully obvious to anyone that there is no military solution to creating a safe and stable world. In fact, such efforts only create deeper hostility, more violence. Representative Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress with the courage to vote against U.S. military involvement, said recently:
“The more military-first strategies that are employed with regard to Afghanistan, the worse it’s going to be. The counter, you know, impact is what’s happening now. More troops become occupiers, as perceived by the Afghani people. The hostility, the violence continues to increase. And in fact, I’m not willing to warrant our young men and women placed in harm’s way. It has not worked over the last eight years. We’re digging ourselves deeper in a hole. There is no military solution in Afghanistan.”
Upon hearing that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama said he understood this to be a “call to action.” It should be clear to everyone what that action should include.