On this weekend of remembrance, do you remember why the U.S. went to Afghanistan on October 2001 and is still waging war more than a decade later?
According to the U.S Defense Department on Friday, the Afghan Coalition 3,000 death was recorded as another young soldier, lost his life. Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan J Wilson, only 26 years old, was killed in Bahrain, where he was part of the U.S. Naval Forces. This brings the death toll of American soldiers to 1,974. (Read it at CNN)
As these 1,974 families who have personally lost loved ones to the horrors of war re-visit their grief, do you remember why these brave souls were taken? As the president and others read numerous eloquent speeches, lay wreaths on countless graves of dead soldiers and salute numerous veterans who were lucky to come home, do you remember why we have these fallen heroes?
As dignitaries tour veterans hospitals, and televisions show more permanently maimed from the ravages of war, do you remember why they lost their limbs, faces, their ability to take care of themselves and their families?
Apart from physical injuries, mental impairment is rampant among survivors of war with many suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with several not getting the adequate help that they need. Many end up in our prison system, forgotten, thrown away like yesterday's trash. When we walk past that homeless man sleeping in the subway, on the streets or public parks, do you ever wonder if he/she is a victim of war--one of our heroes?
Young men and women who serve in the military for over 20 years, dedicating and risking their lives for country, receive only 50 percent pay on retirement. Half of their pay while Senators and Congressmen ensconced in the safe confines of Washington, posturing, bickering and for the most part, incompetently running this country, get 100 percent of theirs even if they serve only one term. What is wrong with this picture?
Again do you remember why we are still in Afghanistan? Young girls are still married off to old men. Girls and women are poisoned for simply seeking an education. A 14-year-old girl was jailed for reporting her rape "too late." This same girl gave birth to the child of her rapist still locked up behind bars and her only hope of getting out was her marrying her rapist. President Hamid Kaizai knew of these atrocity and it was only after international outcry that this child, now a mother, released.
This abject oppression and abuse of women and girls continue to exist in a country where the U.S. led allied forces have supposedly "fought the good fight" for over 10 years. Thousands of dead soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Afghans including innocent women and children, as well as maybe billions of dollars in resources and time later and this sort of depravity remains part of the landscape of that war-ravaged country.
Why are we in Afghanistan? Can we fight an ideology with guns, tanks, drones and stealth bombers? Can we change an archaic, extreme religious and patriachal society with war? An ideology that is handed down from generation to generation? The Taliban is not an army it is a way of life. Trying to bomb out ignorance is like trying to stamp out racism in America with laws: impossible without a seismic shift in mentality. Education is part of the key but not the entire solution, for ideology is deeply pervasive.
Look at the political climate in the U.S.--a place that is supposed to be the most enlightened, free society in the world. So free yet we had presidential candidates in 2012 passionately calling for the suppression of women's reproductive rights. Legislators in more than 30 states pushing laws and measures to reverse decades of progress made by women. Vetoing laws that would grant women equal wages for equal work to men.
Republicans passed a staggering 99 bills on religion, 71 on family relations, 44 on abortion and 36 on marriage. Incidentally, they passed zero on job creation, the single-most crippling thing in this economy.
North Carolina amended the Constitution to ensure gays and lesbians don't have the same marriage rights as they do and yet we are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban? No wonder we are still there, the reasons are not convincing.
Today, instead of mouthing platitutes about our fallen heroes, our leaders must look at preventing the living from dying. Before we bite into our weekend Bar-B-Que, Americans must think of ways to demand that our elected officials stop the needless war-mongering on our dime. Tell Senators like John McCain, candidate Mitt Romney and all the others now clamoring for war with Iran that war should always be the absolutely last resort not the first pandering solution to propaganda generated problems.
We love war so much that Washington Republicans demand we slash programs that help children and the elderly than take a penny from the burgeoning military budget.
Like Benjamin Franklin once said, "There is never a good war or a bad peace." We need to actively practice that instead of acting like a bullying big brother to the rest of the globe. Fix the widespread damage at home before we try to tell others how to life. Instead of pushing myopic legislation that uncannily resemble the ideology of the enemy we profess to detest, our politicians must stop the war on women and let all enjoy their basic Civil Rights.
Though it is woefully inadequate: In honor of all those who lost their lives, I salute you. Here is to preventing more from swelling those endlessly long ranks.
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