Today is September
11. And if one more person reminds me to remember the goddamn date, I think
I'll go nuts. And not because we should forget what happened, and forget the
innocent people who were lost to us on September 11, 2001, but because we seem
to forget about everything every other day of the year.
This column is going
to be a bit more personal than most, for reasons that will be clear as I
continue this. For that, I ask that you bear with me and forgive me.
That same month, a
group of religious nuts hijacked planes and flew them into the two tallest
buildings on New York City, which caused them to collapse (and I'm warning the
conspiracy nuts out there; I will block you if you even attempt to bring that bullshit into this discussion!), killing thousands of people who
were just working for a living, and didn't deserve to die.
The people who died in that tragedy should
be remembered, and their families deserve our condolences. But what about the
aftermath? When do we remember who and what we represent as a nation, and start moving
forward? And if you don't understand what I mean, then you're part of the
Right after the
terrorist attacks, President Bush moved troops to Afghanistan, where it was
thought the perpetrators of the attacks were holed up and training for another
attack. Even though I'm a liberal and generally a pacifist, I was okay with
the concept of going in and taking out these pseudo-religious fanatics, and
wiping them out, before they could commit more murders. While I am against violence in principle, I was not against a surgical strike. They also took out the Taliban in the initial stages, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, either. As long as it was quick and resulted in minimal loss of life.
Folks, it's been
This is my son now.
He joined the Army
earlier this year, in order to pay for college. He is now deployed in Afghanistan, and is serving his country honorably as a soldier. As his only parent, I don;t mind telling you, I raised him to be a good, conscientious man, who cares about everyone he meets. He will be a good soldier, and he will defend his country as best he can, honorably and heroically, as does every soldier over there. I am proud of my son, and every other soldier, and everyone else who works hard to defend this country.
My question is
simple. Why are we still over there, eight years later? For that matter,
why do we still have troops in Iraq, almost eight years after President Bush
ordered an invasion there? Is this what our Founders had in mind when they created a defense force; that we should police other countries for as long as we can get away with being there?
Let's face facts. While a case can be made for the initial move into Afghanistan, it should have been over within a few months, not continuing to drag on eight years later. There is no "winning" in Afghanistan; there never was. Our purpose was ostensibly to rout al Qaeda, not to take over their country. In Iraq, we were ostensibly there for one reason; to eliminate Saddam Hussein's regime. We did that in six weeks. On May 1, President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished. Saddam Hussein was executed almost three years ago; obviously, he's no longer a threat. Yet, nearly eight years later, we're still there.
Why must every September 11 be a memorial for the folks who died that day, but the other 364-365 days per year, we just forget about what happened, and refuse to ask any questions. My kid is over there, valiantly fighting for his country, in harm's way, over something that happened when he was giving Mr. Marfizo fits in Social Studies class. Why is that the case? Why was a president allowed to put us in that position in the first place? How is it possible for a president in the United States of America, to use war as a honey pot for his biggest donors, without the rest of us even noticing? How was it possible for a president in the United States of America to use our troops — and let me assure you, they are OUR troops, not his — to retaliate against people who attacked us, and then turn that into an occupation for eight years?
This country spends
more money on "Defense" than every other nation in the world
combined. Read that again; we spend more on our military than every other nation in the world COMBINED! Now, we're a relatively isolated
country with oceans on other side, and friendly countries on both of our physical borders. One has to wonder what the hell is wrong with us, that we spend far
more, as a percentage of our GDP on "Defense" than anyone else, including those countries
surrounded by enemies on all borders. Yet, with all of that spending, and the tiny bit of threat we face from other nations, we can't manage to wipe out a band of thugs and train Afghans to guard their own country in EIGHT YEARS?
We wiped out the Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Forces in less than five years. Sure, we had some help, but if the cause was just, we'd have plenty of help now. If we can't take out a group of ragtag thugs holed up in the mountains of Western Asia, then perhaps we should rethink what we're spending that money on.
It's time to get my
son, and all of the other soldiers, out of both Iraq and Afghanistan. That's change we can believe in. Oh, sure,
a case can be made that we can't leave them high and dry after we broke their countries. But come on; we can't ask a UN force, unaffiliated with any particular country, including ours, to go in and train them to take care of themselves? My son was trained and apparently ready to go in less than four months; why does it look as if we're committed to at least another year in Iraq and 3-4 years in Afghanistan? If we haven't been able to train Afghans and Iraqis in eight years, what is wrong with us?
If we really want to remember September 11, we'll stop all the jingoistic bullshit, and remember that we have soldiers — young people we raised to become productive citizens — in these countries, and demand that they come home.
And we also need to re-think the purpose of our military in the first place, and return it to its original mission. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are there to keep this country safe and strong. They are not there for a president's personal use, or the use of the president's biggest contributors, in order to make money. If we really want to honor the memories people who were lost to us on September 11, 2001, then we should be working to save as many lives as possible. The terrorist attack was a senseless waste of human life, but so are continued wars against countries that don't pose a threat to us. We really have to stop it.
President Obama needs to do the right thing, and pull us out of Afghanistan. There is nothing to win there. I want my son, and the sons and daughters of everyone out there in my position, to grow up and lead this country out of the neocon wilderness and into a better day.