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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/10/10

The 1000th Death in Afghanistan: There Must Be a Better Way!

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As of February 23, 2010, a grim milestone was reached in Afghanistan. The 1000th member of the U.S. military was killed. On March 19th, 2010, the world will mark the 7th anniversary of the U. S. invasion of Iraq.

Despite a 10% unemployment rate and a record $1.4 trillion deficit President Obama is expected to ask Congress this spring for an additional $33 billion on top of a record $708 billion defense budget for 2011 to continue fighting both wars.

Add these two figures together and you get nearly three quarters of one trillion dollars spent on the wars. In the 2008 book titled The Three Trillion Dollar War, noted economist Joseph Siglitz and Linda Bilmes examine the true costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and predict that when military operations cease, the wars will have cost three trillion dollars - a figure at once both staggering and obviously conservative.

What expenses will the $33 billion supplemental cover? It will fund the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan. It will also pay for the expanded use of pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan by speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013. The rationale for this strategy articulated by the Obama administration is that more troops and more drones will stabilize Afghanistan and allow U. S. troops to be brought home.

Will this work? Will the escalation stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan and allow a withdrawal of U.S. troops? The Bloomfield based NJ Peace Action answers emphatically no.

As Pakistan is destabilized, tensions between India and Pakistan will rise. Since both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, it is risky to inflame tensions in the region. In May 2010, delegates from countries all over the world will gather at the United Nations to assess the progress made toward global nuclear disarmament at the 5-year review conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But until genuine progress is made, terrible risks remain.

Of the 2,412 Afghan civilians killed last year, a recent UN report attributed 25% to the U.S. led coalition and Afghan security forces; 359 civilians were killed in aerial attacks, or 61 percent of civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces.

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Madelyn Hoffman is the Executive Director of NJ Peace Action, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She has held that position since August 2000. Madelyn Hoffman traveled to Afghanistan with Global Exchange in June 2005 and has given dozens of (more...)
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