With Memorial Day coming up, we should take a moment to consider something that's gone largely unremarked in the mainstream media: more than 1,500 troops have now died in a war the American people oppose. That's a national tragedy, and it's one Congress can mitigate by demanding a date certain for troop withdrawals and an exit strategy to get troops home.
It's worth noting that the backers of the administration's war policies swore to us that their plan would lead to fewer troop deaths, not more. Back in 2009, when the Pentagon was putting on a full-court press in support of massive troop escalations in Afghanistan, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said:
"[O]ur extended security presence must -- and will -- improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties." --Admiral Mike Mullen, Congressional Testimony, December 2, 2009.
Suffice it to say, that promise was false. According to iCasualties.org:
- In Jan-May 2009, there were 61 U.S. troop deaths in the Afghanistan War.
- In the same period in 2010, as escalations began, there were 141.
- In the same period this year, there were 136.
In other words, comparing the year so far with the same period in 2009, before the escalations began in earnest, we can see that despite Mullen's promise, troop deaths are double what they were before. This is just one of a string of broken promises made by war backers to the American people, and as we sail past the 1,500-troop-death milestone and careen toward the 2,000th death, it's time we said, "Enough is enough."
Today, Congress is considering the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, a piece of legislation that outlines a budget for our nation's military. One of the amendments to the bill that will be considered as early as this afternoon is based on U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern's (D-Mass.) and Walter Jones' (R-N.C.) Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act (.pdf), which will require:
1. A plan and time-frame on accelerated transition of military operations to Afghan authorities;
2. A plan and time-frame on negotiations leading to a political solution and reconciliation in Afghanistan; and
3. A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on al-Qaeda.
The McGovern/Jones amendment won't end the war by itself, but it's a necessary first step to reining in a war policy that up to this point has utterly failed to deliver on the promises of its backers to the American people. Supporters of Rethink Afghanistan and other organizations are urging Congress to pass this amendment this week, and the vote may happen as early as today. If you want the war to end, please use our petition to send a note to your representative immediately.
This weekend, many Americans will mark Memorial Day at barbecues or other patriotic events, but thousands of families will spend the day dealing with the heartbreaking absence of a loved one. Others will spend the day like they spent every day for the last decade: hoping there's not a phone call or a knock at the door to tell them their deployed family member won't be coming home.
This should be the last Memorial Day we put military families through this agony for a war that's not making us safer. Watch our new video and then sign our petition to tell your Member of Congress why the troops should come home from Afghanistan.