I don’t know my audience, well what little one I have all that well. I don’t know where you have come from or where you may be going in life. I would like to let you in on a little bit of my life though.
Almost 20 years ago to this day, I went to work like any other day. I had a IT class I was in that week. Given the city I was stationed in, public transport made it much easier to get around in certain areas. So, I drove to work and hopped on the Metro subway to head to Bethesda, Maryland. My wife at the time worked as a travel agent for a DoD entity. She was in a new office that day. This was pretty much pre-cell phone times for most of us. I had the all impressive pager. Get a page, find a phone. We had been in class for a bit. I began to get pager notifications over and over. I had asked since she was in a new office to send me the number, but I didn’t ask for her to send it multiple times. I get up to leave and find a phone. When I finally call, I am met with the words, two planes just hit the World Trade Center. In my head, I am thinking, eh, 2 small Cessna I am sure. Some wayward Brooklyn-ite who lost his way to the Mets game. However, the next sentence changed that. The side of the Pentagon was just hit. The one by the helipad. As soon as I heard that, my mind switched gears. I called work immediately. No one answered the phones. I called 2 more times with no answer.
I was in the class with 2 co-workers. One of them happened to be deaf. He could read lips though which helped. I barely got out what had happened to my other co-worker before one of the managers opened the door and told everyone else the news. The instructor happened to be from New York City and knew people who worked at the Trade Center. I continued to make calls with no answer or a busy signal because most of the East coast was using the phone all at the same time. My co-worked drove me and the other hearing impaired person to get his car in Virginia. I used that car to get on Ft. Belvoir and to the apartment. Going to work the next morning was an event. I had finally heard from my boss at 5pm that evening. Until then, I had no idea if anyone I worked with were alive or dead. The next day, you return to a building still on fire. You have no idea how many people died, or if there are people still in the building who could be clinging to life.
Thus began the War on Terror. It did not take us long to begin bombing and occupation of Afghanistan. If you have followed history, you will know that opposing countries have attempted to invade this country for years. In the 1980’s it was the Soviet Union’s turn to invade. To help ensure that there would be no spread of Communism, the U.S. decides to arm the Taliban with our own weaponry. This is when things begin to go South. We give the country a chance to defend itself in such a way to eventually tell the Soviets that it simply wasn’t worth their time, energy, or effort. What it helped do it end the U.S.S.R. Well at least for a minute. If you think its not pretty much the same now with Vladimir Putin, you sort of need to have your head examined.
As of today, 31 August 2021, our time in Afghanistan has come to a close. What has the last 20 years brought us? ABC News provided these numbers. (1)
U.S. Service Members – 2,448
U.S. Contractors – 3,846
Afghan national military and police – 66,000
Other allied service members – 1,144
Afghan Civilians – 47,245
Taliban and other opposition – 51,191
Aid Workers – 444
Journalists – 72
Estimated Cost of Afghanistan and Iraq Wars – 2 Trillion
Estimated Interest Paid on the 2 Trillion – 925 Million
Estimated Interest by 2030 – 2 Trillion
Estimated Interest by 2050: 6.5 Trillion
Estimated cost of healthcare and benefits that will be paid to veterans from this time frame – 1.6 to 1.8 Trillion
So, with thousand of lives gone and trillions of dollars spent, what has our occupation of this country achieved for us in 20 years? As a soldier who served my country from 1990-2003, and has worked to support the war effort after I left active duty, I can say with full confidence that we left one group considerably better off than what they were when we arrived; the Taliban. While throwing them and Al Qaeda from power over the course of 20 years, the Taliban still managed to stick around. Enough so that a peace agreement was made with them during the last administration. One that would end our occupation and allow some sort of order. A government we have helped set up would be in power with a U.S. trained Afghan military there to defend their interests.
Raise your hand if you thought this would work? Weeks for the Taliban to take control turned to days. Why? Well, my thought would be, if you are a male who would be able to go back to having multiple wives and kids; be able to beat them for no reason; not have to compete with them for work; and basically treat them worse than a dog, what exactly are you fighting for if this is your form of religion and living?
We gave a nation hope. Hope that we can change the way in which they live. We gave women the rights they had never had as recognized human beings. They were allowed to go to school, learn to read. How amazing that would be for those who have never had those opportunities. If those things sound familiar, its because we have been there before. Korean and Vietnam should sound pretty familiar to everyone. Promises made and promises broken. Watching Afghan citizens literally cling to military flights and fall to their death should have shown you the quagmire that was being created by a poorly planned exit. Our President promised that he would get everyone out, only to have the last flight lift off a few hours before I write this. That was listed as the last flight out.
It is worth noting that we did not take our goods with us as well. in the ineffective pullout, we managed to leave helicopters, humvees, armoured vehicles, drones, rifles, and other weaponry. So what we have insured in this instance is just like when we came in 2001 and were being shot at with our own weapons provided to defeat the Soviets, if we go back, we will be shot at with our own upgraded weaponry.
What we have is 20 years of an attempt to “change the hearts and minds” of a group of people who have lived a particular way for over a thousand years. The withdraw was so poorly executed while the current administration wished to tell you how many thousands of people were rescued. If you want the numbers that matter? 13 soldiers lost their lives protecting a piss poor retreat. Along with hundreds of Afghans waiting to be evacuated. Maybe clinging to that plane wasn’t such a bad idea after all? Pick your poison; fall to your death or get blown to bits.
For any country that we would go to in the future, what could we ever tell them to make them think we will not screw them over when we leave? Helicopters well pulling people off the roof of the embassy in Saigon. We are pushing almost 50 years to do the same thing. The arrogance of those in charge goes to show us that we never learn lessons from our failures. We had 46 years to get this right. Set a date far enough out to be done and out with everything 2 months beforehand. Evacuate citizens in an orderly and timely fashion. With military authority and escort. But no, we give a date and wait until the last seconds to see it through. We leave behind enough weaponry to stock a revolution.
Our days as an occupier of countries needs to end. Our concept of attempting to make nice with citizens of other countries who harbor those who would do harm to us needs to cease as well. Not everyone wants democracy, and judging by the dropping of arms, not everyone deserves it either. It is time for our country to take a look at the isolationist policies that Woodrow Wilson was such a staunch believer in. I don’t think that we need to go away from the global world, but I do not feel as though we should be the police force for it anymore. We have no incentive to occupy foreign lands. Our purpose should be for one thing only; to protect the interests of Americans. It needs to be made clear that if those interests are threatened that we will use weaponry to retaliate against those whom we find hostile. This is regardless of the country they choose to be in. There no longer needs to be a diplomatic side of these situations. If your country harbors those who intend or have done us harm, we will be coming to annihilate them. We will not ask if its okay, we won’t tell you we are coming, we will simply eliminate the problem via scorched earth. Our Achilles heal has been we want to be liked and have that “we are here to help” mentality. It only has left us to look weak in the eyes of those who wish us harm. You have to fear the response more than you fear those around you. That is what we have to become as a country. It doesn’t make us well liked I am sure. I am also sure we aren’t well liked to begin with. So what is the difference.
- The cost of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars, Ellen Knickmeyer; Associated Press, 7/12/2021.