Vetting the vet conundrum
When it comes to vetting (checking out) the vets, I’ve come to one conclusion: Most of them are far braver than I can ever hope to be. That’s obvious — but no longer the point.
A while back, the proverbial chairs got fallen off of when Gen. David Petraeus, the currently deified commander of our forces in Afghanistan, said, “I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”
Nearing its 10th year, this war is already the longest in our history. We’re not winning it and, in fact, it cannot be won.
So the Howitzers grow whiskers. Can wartime senility be far behind?
We no longer fight wars to win, but to win over hearts and minds. Instead, we’ve killed an obscene number of civilians and turned most Afghans against us. We’ve driven our own nation deep into debt with the trillion dollars we’ve wasted there and another trillion in Iraq — and there’s no end in sight. It may be time to check our brainpower, not our gunpowder.
Despite our president’s statement a year ago that in July of 2011 we would begin to transfer our forces out of Afghanistan, the administration and military have let us know that such an event would be about as believable as millennialist predictions of the end of the world in 2012. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to set my clock by it, in military time or regular.
The Pentagon is now preparing to build three $100 million bases in Afghanistan that will be ready for use in late 2011. They’ve also requested $1.3 billion “for multiyear construction of military facilities” in that country, according to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. They’re set to spend $6.2 billion a year to train Afghan forces from 2012 through 2016. There are other examples of profligate spending, but I know you’re ready to leave for Walmart, in order to save a few bucks on your shopping, so I won’t keep you.
The annual cost of maintaining a single soldier there has been estimated to be around a million dollars. If we look at the numbers in terms of wasted dollars and resources, the facts are enough to make Donald Trump look like Pee Wee Herman by comparison.
About 5,700 of our men and women have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 41,100 have been wounded, often with crippling scars that will disfigure them for life. Afghan civilians, though, are the ones who have borne the brunt of the war. Repeatedly traumatized by phantom air strikes that go awry, by the strafing and night-time raids of their homes, and by the killing and maiming of children, women and elderly, they are the hundreds of thousands of victims of this and the war in Iraq who go unmentioned or under-reported. Millions have left their homeland, and a generation of traumatized children will carry the scars of war for life. If that’s how we win over hearts and minds, we may have misread the rules of the game.
The overwhelming firepower of U.S. weaponry, in which for instance, a single round of the shoulder-fired Javelin rocket costs $80,000, dwarfs the enemy’s response, often from the hands of boys wielding nothing but bolt-action rifles that were first introduced in the 1890s.
Andrew Bacevich of Boston University says that, since military power will never defeat this enemy, we need rather to target leaders for elimination; pursue containment efforts such as monitoring exports and finances; and demonstrate scientific, material, and moral superiority.
Most of all, he suggests that we live up to the ideals that we profess, by attending to issues such as poverty and injustice, in hopes that our enemy might join us in such efforts.
The American way of war is coming to an end—it cannot be won. And war without end in the hills of Afghanistan—is that our future? Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It may be time to join those who protest this war on the Socorro Plaza every Friday afternoon. This war must not go on. We need to support our troops—and to bring them home!
Kozeny works for Socorro Mental Health Inc. His views are not necessarily those of his employer. He can be reached by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.