Photo by Andre Klimke on Unsplash

Forever Wars

The Human Flotsam of Foolishness

Can we please take a reality break from all the flag waving, Star Spangled Banner playing, patriotic one-up-manship and those ear splitting, mind-bending fireworks and step away from the burgers and the dogs and the beer and all the rest because if you hadn’t noticed the U.S. has screwed up another war, with thousands of Americans dead and untold numbers with missing limbs and faces and nightmarish ongoing battles with PTSD. And for what?

First it was the Korean War, then Vietnam, then Iraq, and now Afghanistan. That’s four, forever wars, fought through Republican and Democratic administrations and for what?

After 20 years, the last U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan and according to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of 10 a.m., June 28, 2021, 2,312 Americans had died; and 20,666 Americans were wounded. Let those numbers sink in and fester for a while as they represent real people, with real families and real dashed hopes and dreams and real painful, shattered lives.

And that’s not including thousands of coalition fighters and civilians and unknown numbers of Taliban warriors who were killed or maimed. Yes, they too, are real people. And what was accomplished? Beats me, but I did read today that the so-called experts fear a civil war will now erupt between the Afghanis and the Taliban and that is a sign of just how much was accomplished over the long, bloody years. You remember the Taliban, they came to power in September 1996 and quickly imposed harsh and brutal Muslim Sharia laws that essentially relegated women to slave status while enslaving or killing anyone who violated the new religious edicts. So the U.S. leaves, opening for a potential revival of Al Qaeda and the murderous Islamic State or ISIS.

The Korean War ended with a cease fire and North Korea has become a dictatorship with nuclear weapons; the U.S. deserted Vietnam to the North Vietnamese; and the U.S. war in Iraq spawned the barbaric, deadly Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS. If that was a batting average, the U.S. would have been cut from the team years ago.

How on earth can anyone explain this to the families who lost a husband, a wife, a son, a daughter, a father, a mother; and to the veterans who hobble around on painful prosthesis or undergo operation upon operation to quell their pain while many find their lives spiral down in a haze of addiction to pain killers; or to those people whose lives were destroyed in their prime as they awaken to nightmares and visions and repetitions of the horrors they’ve endured while suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Every president who started or continued every one of these wars should meet personally and apologize to every veteran who served in these politically-expedient wars and admit they were all terrible, avoidable mistakes of colossal proportions. Already, Republicans are ripping Biden for the withdrawal, apparently forgetful that their former, hair-challenged leader, had also pressed to pull Americans out of Afghanistan, a nation where war is a fact of life, starting with the British invasion in 1839 and two years later, they suffered one of the most disastrous defeats in British military history. Russia’s war in Afghanistan continued from 1978 to 1989, when the Russians threw in the towel with their defeat as one more splinter in the decaying and eventual downfall of the Soviet Union. Our brilliant leaders think they’ll do things better and they never do.

The military has an Orwellian way of naming deadly conflicts. The war in Afghanistan was called Operation Enduring Freedom and it started on Oct. 7, 2001, in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, targeting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Thirteen years after President Bush ordered the war to begin, it was declared over on Dec. 28, 2014, by President Obama. “Over” is a relative term because the war continued under a new name, “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel” until President Biden declared it over.

The war in Iraq, fought over never found weapons of destruction, was given the moniker Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was fought between March 19, 2003 and Aug. 31, 2010. The death tolls: 4,418 American military members were killed and 31,994 wounded.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of Sept. 1, 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom was over and Gates had renamed it “Operation New Dawn,” marking the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations by United States forces in Iraq. The results: 74 killed, 298 wounded.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the campaign to destroy ISIL, short for The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; and also known by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. Whatever you call it, 105 Americans died and 238 were wounded.



Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer

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