Get Out

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This September marks 16 years since the fateful day we simply call 9/11, when 19 Islamic jihadists caused the deaths of some 3,000 people in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania.  Less than a month after that horrible day, Operation Enduring Freedom began, as the United States invaded the “land of the Pashtuns,” Afghanistan.  We’re still there, and Washington cannot decide whether it’s time to leave or stay indefinitely.

We need to get out—now.

In mid-June, the New York Times reported that, at the behest of Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, President Trump was authorizing an addition of 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops to that barren wasteland, the graveyard of empire, to complement the roughly 8,500 troops who remain in-country some two and a half years after the last time the war “ended.”  This was described by the media as Trump “turning Afghanistan over to his generals,” distancing himself from the decision.

Trump’s predecessor in the White House had a difficult time calling it a day in Afghanistan, so he set some arbitrary dates for drawing down troop numbers.  On December 28, 2014, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force lowered its flag, then raised one that symbolized “Resolute Support” in its place.  President Obama declared that this ceremony marked “a milestone for our country,” and “combat missions” were changed into “counterterrorism operations,” “advising,” and “training.”  From then until now, Afghanistan has continued to be an unruly landlocked hellhole where Taliban members emerge from caves like cockroaches out of cracks in the wall the moment American troops and air support leave an area.  And despite the “resoluteness” of our “support,” sustainable farming efforts in poppy production have yielded such high-flying results that Afghanistan now accounts for 70 percent of the world’s opium supply, according to the United Nations.  So does this mean we should stay?  How can we “cut and run” now?

This story, and its attendant questions, have a familiar ring to them.

On May 1, 2003—a little over a month after Operation Iraqi Freedom began—President George W. Bush descended from on high onto the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego to deliver a televised speech before a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.”  As if his goal were to define for English majors the meaning of the word irony, the President declared, “Our mission continues.”  While he was speaking these words and looking “virile” and “sexy” according to the Wall Street Journal, the Iraqi Insurgency was forming in Fallujah and all over the Sunni Triangle, the fertile soil in which ISIL/ISIS/IS would sprout and grow.  Seven years later, on September 1, 2010, President Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, informing TV viewers that America had sufficiently “put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.”  Its people included Sunni Triangle-born Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed the Islamic State a “Caliphate” in 2014, with himself as its caliph.  Today, with the dechristianization of Iraq complete, and after umpteen ISIS beheading videos and battles for Mosul, Fallujah, and their environs, the U.S. training and advisory force in Iraq, some 5,000 strong, is “fighting like never before,” according to President Trump, who vowed during his campaign to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”

My oldest son was 17 months old when the Twin Towers fell in New York City.  He is now a 17-year-old defensive end, a senior in high school who is months away from fulfilling his obligation to register with Selective Service.  The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including all of the events listed above, have spanned most of his life.  In February 2018, he will be required by law to give the U.S. government the power to conscript him and send him wherever it wants, including the Dar al-Islam.  If the Obama administration, Democrats, and a number of Republicans had had their way, my oldest daughter would be next in line.  (“It’s only fair,” said John McCain.)  As I write, some of my high-school friends have sons who are deployed to those countries.  And I have overheard some of my son’s friends, those who don’t foresee having the means to pay for college, talking about enlisting.

Meanwhile, other friends of mine struggle to be in crowds of people and flinch at any unexpected loud noise because of the PTSD they acquired in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are the lucky ones who still possess their limbs and lives.  They live with disabilities because they responded to their leaders’ call to protect America, to “fight ’em over there, so we don’t have to face them” here.  They were sent to these godforsaken regions ostensibly for two reasons.

Our soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because “9/11 mastermind” Osama bin Laden, a rich Sunni born in Saudi Arabia (America’s $500 million friends who finance mosques all over the West), created a loose network (The Base, or Al Qaeda) of Salafist Sunni “holy warriors” and trained them there.  Bin Laden chose Afghanistan because it was (and in some places still is) run by the Taliban, a collection of ruthless sharia-loving mujahideen whom the Reagan administration provided with Stinger missiles during the 1980’s in exchange for their opposition to the Soviets.  Paying it forward, the Taliban offered Bin Laden their famous Pashtun “hospitality” and refused to hand him over when President Bush asked for him.  At some point during the war, Bin Laden moved to Pakistan, which is where Seal Team Six found him six years ago.  Al Qaeda remains in Afghanistan, as well as several countries in the Middle East.

Our soldiers went to Iraq because Iraqi nationalist/Ba’athist thug Saddam Hussein, whom we supported during the Iran/Iraq war, was said to be supporting terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction.  These statements were based on the “best information” our “intelligence community” could manufacture for those in Washington who wanted it.  We blew up Saddam’s masochistic thug sons and handed him over to his Shi’ite enemies, who hanged him while screaming the name of their cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, a man who had previously declared a jihad on all U.S. forces in Iraq.  The rise of purple-fingered Shi’ites in Iraq, in turn, precipitated the recruitment of Sunnis by ISIS.

In short, the horrors of September 11 were followed by two wars that, according to the Military Times (last year), “have cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $5 trillion so far, and that total could rise even higher in the years to come.”  More significantly, U.S. military and civilian casualties for Enduring Freedom number (as of July 31) 2,350 dead and 20,093 wounded in action; and for Iraqi Freedom, 4,424 dead and 31,957 WIA.  These are steep prices to pay for the chance to destabilize an entire region of the world.  And we can’t seem to leave it alone.

The push for continued war in these countries represents not the best interests of the American people but the designs of the neoconservatives, who play the world like a chess board.  For far too long, these pseudo-intellectuals have wielded tremendous influence over Washington and the imaginations of the American people, flinging epithets at any politician, intellectual, or citizen who challenges their internationalist plans; believes that the U.S. government has no constitutional right to spill American blood for any cause other than the actual defense of our country; knows that “defeating evil” is an impossible, narcissistic goal; and refuses to say that Islam is a “religion of peace” that should be welcome in our country.  These same neocons who foment fears of distant threats chide American patriots as “nativists” and even “racists” for arguing that there is such a thing as an American people worth defending by the enforcement of strict immigration laws.  The liberal media love the neocons, inviting them on their show-panels to play the role of tough-minded, principled “conservatives.”  At the core, the liberals and the neocons are two sides of the same coin, believing that America is an idea, not a country.  And because America and her people exist in their minds to serve as the vanguard of worldwide “freedom” and “equality” (concerning which tradition, authentic natural law, the Christian Faith, common sense, and the law of cause and effect have little if any bearing), there must always be a foreign dragon to slay, be it an Islamic nationalist (e.g., Syria’s Assad) or the neocons’ perennial Great Satan, Russia.

The vampiric neoconservatives have been wrong about the outcome of every single blood-draining foreign adventure they have advocated.  Yet Republicans continue to listen to them and obey—the result of historical, philosophical, and practical ignorance and a fear of looking bad on TV.  Being “anti-military” and “weak on national defense” is not “virile.”  “Isolationism” is not “sexy.”

In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that “one senior administration official” had disclosed that there is “deep division” in the White House over the direction of Trump’s Afghanistan policy, a reflection of Trump’s bizarre and contradictory choices in staffing his administration.  Some (presumably the “nativist” Steve Bannon and his allies) are stubbornly insisting that the United States withdraw troops from Afghanistan, to the great dismay of Trump’s hawkish Cabinet generals, who, according to the June media report, thought they had prevailed in convincing Trump to authorize a surge.  They had jumped the gun: When presented with the generals’ surge plan, the President refused to sign it, and a “shitshow” ensued.  Enraged, John McCain, who never met a surge he didn’t like, went rogue, working independently with “some of our best military leaders” to devise a “strategy for success in achieving America’s national interests in Afghanistan,” according to his statement.  He vows to add his “plan” to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act, set for debate this fall.  Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also entered the fray, writing an article for the Wall Street Journal outlining his plan for a private American “viceroy” to rule Afghanistan.  To leave Afghanistan altogether would allow the “terrorists to take over,” Prince insisted to NPR.  His plan was to be financed in part by the acquisition of lucrative mining rights in the country, which got the Trump administration’s attention, although Secretary Mattis reportedly rejected the idea and continues to lobby for his surge.

The “Deplorables” who elected Donald Trump need to indicate very strongly which side of this “deep division” we fall on.  No matter what follows in Afghanistan after America’s departure, it is immoral to gamble with the lives of our troops for one more minute to provide for the common defense of the Pashtuns.  We need to show that we will no longer be bullied by the lunatic insults of neoconservative “foreign-policy experts” who are always wrong, every time.  Dead, maimed, and traumatized sons and daughters offered in sacrifice to the neocons’ schemes will not “make America great again.”  Or Iraq or Afghanistan, for that matter.      

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