BY WILLIAM C. HENRY If you’re tired of reading rants (mine included) decrying our shameful experiments in nation building and capitalism cloning perhaps better known as Iraq and Afghanistan, you might want to exit now. I’ve raged on the subject(s) so many times I really can’t recall just how often it’s been. One thing I can promise those of you who persevere is that I’ll never stop doing so as long as I have the mental and physical capacity to speak, hold a pen, or pound a key pad. The issue is just too important. Brave American men and women are still being slaughtered and seriously maimed unnecessarily every day in those God forsaken patchs of rock and sand, and it’s been going on for 10 unconscionable years now (that’s longer than we were in Viet Nam).
From the beginning I’ve read literally every Middle East involvement-related article, column, blog, and commentary I felt worth the effort. I’ve dissected all the slanted facts and uninformed opinions from both ends of the political spectrum and every shade in between. I’ve discussed, debated (occasionally shouted), and published my feelings until I wanted to cry, and often times did. I’ve studied the odious history of how we got there, and all of the vacuous reasons for why we should stay. So, you’ll have to forgive me if after having read two recent news reports, I felt compelled to revisit the subject once again. Both involve trials and conviction, yet entirely different definitions of the words. A study in contrasts if you will. One tells of the trials endured by a returning soldier in adjusting to the severe wounds he sustained in Afghanistan, and his conviction to overcome them; the other involves a few not-even-close-to mea culpa assessments expressed by retired Army General Stanley McChrystal in a recent speech to the Council On Foreign Relations regarding our “uninformed” entry into the abyss. The disclosures are of the kind that should have brought about trials and conviction for treason of numerous high ranking U.S. politicians and appointees starting with “dubya” himself. McChrystal, if you’ll recall, was the Commander of United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan who was relieved of duty by the President back in June after having made disparaging remarks about a number of Obama administration officials in Rolling Stone magazine. Anyway, allow me to elaborate a bit about both.
The first report relates in detail the story of Dan Berschinski, a very unusual Army lieutenant and double-amputee as a result of his service in Afghanistan, and Rebecca Taber his one-in-a-million mate he knows he’s blessed to have found. I’m not going to tell you all about it because I want you to read it in its entirety yourselves. It won’t take but ten or fifteen minutes and I know you’re going to find your own life just a tiny bit better for having done so. It may also afford you new insight into the words “indomitable American spirit.” What does need to be made known, however, is that there are so many thousands of Middle East returnees’ stories that haven’t turned out nearly so well. Of the 135,000 veterans who currently find themselves homeless it is estimated that nearly 11,000 (13% of which are women) once served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The suicide rate for veterans is double that for the general population. For the second year in a row the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan than to combat. But no other numbers can begin to match the sheer unconscionableness of nearly 6,500 brave American servicemen and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan in coffins, and nearly 47,000 returning in wheelchairs or on stretchers.
Now a little about McChrystal’s non-mea culpa. In the BBC News report he’s quoted as saying, “The U.S. began the war in Afghanistan with a ‘frighteningly simplistic’ view of the country and even 10 years later lacks knowledge that could help bring the conflict to a successful end.” Well, gee, thanks so much for the altogether “enlightening and profound” insight. Honestly, Stan, I’d have felt just a wee bit better if you if you’d told me something that any American with half a brain (and many with less) hasn’t been aware of for years! He went on to say that the U.S. and its NATO allies are only “a little better than” half way to reaching their military goals. Well, hell Stan, nobody said that this “nation building” business was going to be easy. And at least we now know that we’ve only got 10 more years to go before we can declare victory and come home! He further added that, “We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough. Most of us–me included–had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.” Yeah, and I presume that includes any knowledge whatsoever of this so-called “country’s” feudalistic realities, or OUR OWN (can you spell C I A) long and deep involvement in its heroin-based subsistence
So there you have it. A few more cross words about these seemingly bottomless pits that literally keep sucking the lifeblood out of the nation. What ever happened to the anger and overt action we mustered over Viet Nam? Why has there been no marching in the streets over THESE abominations? It seems the only people truly hurting therefrom are the parents left without sons or daughters, the widows and widowers, the children left without fathers or mothers, the young men and women left without limbs, and the soldiers who blow the bugles, fire the last shots, and fold and present the flags–unless, of course, you want to throw in the other 300 million or so of us who’ll never see the 4 trillion (with a T) dollars that could have been spent to actually do some good in this greed-filled, get-your-own, slice of inequity we call home. The whole of it all is an incomprehensible national disgrace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.
1,803 = The number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan
13,011 = The number of Americans wounded in Afghanistan
0 = The number of financial industry kingpins indicted for having committed the most massive FRAUD in American history and wrecking the global economy, plunging untold millions into lives of misery and deprivation.