The University of Maine does not observe Veterans’ Day, which is Wednesday, November 11. This is unfortunate, as it is not only disingenuous to those students and faculty who have served in the military, but also because veterans’ issues have taken on greater importance as the nation awaits President Barack Obama’s decision on whether or not to dramatically expand the war in Afghanistan. Obama is not expected to announce his decision for a few weeks, though most policy experts fully expect him to comply with whatever increased troop levels his generals in Afghanistan request.
Nearly everything I have read on the subject agrees it would be a tragic mistake for President Obama to escalate the conflict in Afghanistan.
The lead editorial in The Nation this week (“Obama’s Fateful Choice,” Nov. 9, 2009) warns the president, “The US experience in Afghanistan makes it clear that this is not a war of necessity. We have learned—or should have learned—that we can keep Americans safe from terrorism even if remnants of the Al Qaeda leadership continue to enjoy relative safe haven in Pakistan or parts of Afghanistan. Indeed, the greater danger today comes from a small and dispersed terrorist network that has at most a tangential connection to the region.”
Chris Hedges, writing for Truthdig.com (“Opium, Rape and the American Way,” Nov. 2, 2009) agrees.
“War cannot be waged to instill any virtue, including democracy or the liberation of women,” Hedges writes. “War always empowers those who have a penchant for violence and access to weapons. War turns the moral order upside down and abolishes all discussions of human rights. War banishes the just and the decent to the margins of society. And the weapons of war do not separate the innocent and the damned.”
Indeed, President Obama and his advisors would do well to study the history of the country they are attempting to occupy. Even the Soviet Union could not successfully conquer the region. Just as in the Iraq war, U.S. military forces in Afghanistan find themselves fighting a clandestine, loosely organized enemy they do not truly know—attempting to win over a people and culture they do not understand.
In an October 25 interview with the Real News Network, former U.S. military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg concedes, “No victory lies ahead in Afghanistan… American troops, short of hundreds of thousands, will not achieve anything that can be called success in Afghanistan.”
Nearly half of Maine’s National Guard—more than 800 personnel—were recently deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, the Maine National Guard has sent 2,300 men and women to both countries, where eight have been killed. The national numbers are far more striking: 4,362 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq; 916, in Afghanistan, and well over one million Iraqi civilians, including women and children.
My Veterans’ Day message therefore, is a simple one: Support our troops. Bring them all home. Now. Local and national protests for Obama’s expected escalation of forces in Afghanistan are currently being planned. Check back at this site for events in Maine.