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As Widows and Orphans Weep, the Afghan Quagmire gets Deeper
by Gil Villagrán, MSW (gvillagran [at]
Sunday Nov 1st, 2009 7:45 AM
As our nation begins its eighth year of war in Afghanistan, costing a quarter billion dollars and countless American, Afghani, and others' lives, we must ask: will another eight years of U.S. occupation with 60,000 more troops supporting a Parliament with warlords and druglords usher peace and democracy to that tragic land?
As Widows and Orphans Weep, the Afghan Quagmire gets Deeper 
By Gil Villagrán, MSW

That soldiers must die in war is obvious, and an opportunity for brave heroes to sacrifice their young lives for their beloved homeland. That whole families are blown apart in the theater of war is unfortunate but inevitable because opposing warriors seek to control terrain the mutilated family called their home, school or marketplace. That military officers make their stripes and political leaders achieve greater power during war is to be expected because when the nation is endangered, the public cannot risk asking too many questions, begging only to be saved from the enemy. And that arms manufacturers profit from war is as natural as the law of supply and demand, for a war's demand for weapons is endless as the supply is destroyed with every battle and demands for bigger, more destructive weapons is the only thing protecting soldiers from slaughter and the homeland from invasion. 

So it is that in war some die as heroes or survive as disabled veterans, many more die nameless as collateral damage, a few are promoted with general's stars, and well connected corporations are contracted to manufacture weapons by the millions and rake in profits by the billions. When the nation goes to war, everyone has their assigned role that they must play. The role of political leaders who get nations into wars is a curious role because the expectation that leaders have wisdom beyond the average citizen is almost always a grave mistake. Wisdom is not a necessary qualification for ruling authority in a monarchy, dictatorship, or a democracy. Evidence of this: the kings who all but destroyed Europe in countless wars, generals in Argentina who tortured and killed 40,000 to save the nation from communism, only to bankrupt it by neo-liberal economics and graft, and George W. Bush's "Bush Doctrine" of Pre-emptive War to prevent war which has enmeshed our nation in two wars. 

So here we are beginning the eighth year of war in Afghanistan, a war to get Osama bin Laden who engineered the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The well-known fiasco is that we failed to get bin Laden when we outsourced the task to Afghan warlords under U.S. pay, and was evidently allowed to escape into Pakistan. Even with a $50 million bounty, he remains in that nation, taunting us with video communiqués threatening our destruction. So we went to war to get bin Laden, he escaped at least seven years ago, and we are still stuck in the quagmire called Afghanistan. 

The Bush-Cheney and now the Barack Obama rationale is that unless we can establish democracy in Afghanistan, terrorists will return to launch new attacks on us. This is a classic example of what military strategists call "mission creep." Our goal was to get bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network and to a great extent our military has accomplished that goal. Yes, the Taliban insurgents are back in their own land using terror to impose their brand of 14th century Islamic Law on the unfortunate people under their control. However, the responsibility of bringing any nation toward modernity should not be tasked to our soldiers, a task they are not trained for, and a mandate our nation did not agree to in any election. It is what some might call, "a fool's errand."

But after eight years, 68,000 troops, untold thousands of Afghani and hundreds of American deaths, at a cost of a quarter trillion dollars, that nation remains a hell on earth with a downward life expectancy, rising infant mortality, female children are sold to pay debts, women cannot safely attend school, and warlords, war criminals and opium dealers sit in the nation's Parliament. It seems that the biggest beneficiaries of this war, as in all wars, are the arms manufacturers who reap their profits in exchange for weeping widows and orphans.
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