The Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch recently published an editorial, republished by other papers with the headline: "Remembering why we still fight in Afghanistan." It's a rather striking piece of writing, because it does not even attempt to offer a single reason why anyone would "fight" in Afghanistan. The headline, however, suggests that someone is still waging war there because of something they've forgotten and can be reminded of. Given that the top killer of U.S. troops who have participated in that war has been suicide, one is tempted to shout "Get on with the reminding already!" But then one has to wonder: reminding of what?
The first few paragraphs of the editorial simply tell us that 17 years have gone by. Then we come to this:
"There are still about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan."
In fact, the U.S. military now has approximately 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus 4,000 more that Trump sent plus 7,148 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That's 48,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 17 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
Next in the editorial comes this:
"Most Americans, however, have little idea what we're doing there. Many Americans probably do not even realize that there are still Americans deployed there."
So "we" are both there and unaware of being there, or there and unaware of why. That's quite a feat for "we." Imagine rewriting those sentences in ordinary factual language:
Most people in the United States have heard no convincing reason why the U.S. military is in Afghanistan, and many don't even know it is there.
When you say it like that, so that I am not somehow magically there myself, I feel more open to urging the U.S. military -- an entity that exists separately from me -- to get out of there.
The editorial continues:
"The Virginia War Memorial hopes to change that. For 20 years, the memorial has produced a series of short documentary films called 'Virginians at War' to preserve history and educate future generations. On September 11 this year, the memorial released its newest film, 'A New Century, A New War,' focusing on the terrorist attacks and the ensuing wars. The documentary was created in response to requests from Virginia teachers searching for tools to introduce the difficult and important subjects of 9/11 and our long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."
If you look up "the Virginia War Memorial," you find an institution promoting such initiatives as "Little Soldier Saturdays" with pro-war activities for children aged 3-8. But you don't find any explanation of why wars in general or the war on Afghanistan in particular are justified. Nor have they made their film available; so no readers of this editorial are able to watch it, and the editorial does not convey any explanation of the war that might be found in the film. Instead, the Times Dispatch tells us:
"Twenty interviews were conducted with Virginia veterans and with family members of those lost in the Pentagon attack. From these interviews, a moving and informative film was created that presents vivid memories from 9/11 and shows the personal costs of the wars. 'A New Century, A New War,' was created to show how the world changed in one day and how Virginians have lived and served in this new environment. Clay Mountcastle, director of the War Memorial, explains: 'We wanted a film that would convey the full spectrum of feelings surrounding 9/11, and the weeks and months after, to those too young to have experienced it themselves. We also tried to capture the complex nature of serving in a prolonged war with several lessons and meanings.' The War Memorial hopes the film will remind Virginians about this critical chapter in history and provide an invaluable reference tool for classrooms. 'A New Century, A New War' will soon be available for viewing at the Virginia War Memorial and distributed to teachers across the state. Go see it. It's well worth the visit and the viewing."
And that's it. So, one is left simply to assume that because "9/11" happened, war on Afghanistan is justified until the end of times or until Jesus gets back (has anyone even explained where he went or checked on whether he's stuck in traffic?). And the "full spectrum of feelings surrounding 9/11" I'm willing to bet you one ten-billionth of a Pentagon budget does not include the feelings of any of the survivors and loved ones who have been pleading for 17 years that their suffering not be turned into propaganda for war.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch is not alone. Almost everybody avoids trying to make a case for pointless endless war. Even the people put in charge of waging it have a habit of proposing that it end. Typically they do this the week after they retire or get reassigned.
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