Twenty years. 2,361 American fatalities. Another 20,719 wounded in action. Thousands of veterans dead by suicide and countless more left affected by PTSD.
This is what the cost was.
This is the price America paid for the War in Afghanistan. It almost certainly outweighs the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that fateful day in 2001. This is not even counting the nearly 50,000 Afghani civilians who lost their lives as well. And after all of the death and destruction, the lives lost, the trillions of dollars spent, what do we have to show for it?
During the Taliban’s swift advance through an incompetent Afghan National Army and a corruption-ridden Afghan Government, the evacuation of American civilians and military personnel (which had been planned since April 2021) began in full force. This plan relied upon the Afghan National Army putting up some semblance of a fight. Sadly, their ineptitude was exposed practically immediately, jeopardizing the established plan. By May 15, embassy officials in Afghanistan sent an urgent warning to all Americans: “the U.S. Embassy strongly suggests that U.S. citizens make plans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.”
Over the next couple of months, a massive and hectic operation to leave the country ended up with over 122,000 people having been evacuated from Afghanistan, according to President Joe Biden. The majority of these evacuations occurred in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Chaos reigned, as security forces in disarray and thousands of Afghans seeking to leave the country collided, culminating in a desperate security situation that led to Marines and other American service members being called in to the airport in an attempt to restore order.
We all know what happened next. On August 26, A suicide bomber from ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of the terror group, got within feet of the American marines guarding the airport. The explosion was devastating. In that instant, 12 Marines, one soldier, one Navy Hospitalman, and at least 169 Afghans lost their lives. The oldest American to die in the attack was 31 year old Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, from Salt Lake City. Every other American service member was under the age of 26. Four of the dead were just twenty years old. No older than me and most of us here at Rowan. And just like us, they were in diapers on 9/11. The war was as old as them.
This was most certainly a massive tragedy, and much will be and has been said about the events leading up to it. However, this still is not my gripe. My gripe is with the blatant and shameful way in which these deaths have been used. I’m sure we’ve all seen the reactions: beers left on tables for the 13 dead, the innumerable memorials, the politicians and talking heads using the deaths for a quick political buck. Sea Isle City held a memorial for them.
This. This is my gripe. To all the bleeding heart patriots who claim to care about the troops, who have been so shocked and outraged at these deaths; and to the politicians who couldn’t care any less about American servicemembers: Why do you keep lying to us? Why do you keep claiming to care about our country’s military members when you want to send more and more young American boys and girls to get maimed, traumatized, and killed overseas for nothing? If you cared about our troops and their health and wellbeing, you’d want to do anything possible to stop them from going to war. But you don’t care. These service members are simply political pawns. If you’re a typical American who doesn’t have an immediate relative in the military, you actually “think” of our troops maybe two or three times a year.
What of the more than 500 other service members who have died since 2011? I didn’t see anyone posting about them on Instagram. I haven’t seen anyone posting about leaving a beer on the counter for them. I haven’t seen any politician or media talking head discuss their death with the same amount of energy as they do these deaths. Just the other day, five Navy sailors died off the coast of California in a helicopter crash. How much did you hear about it? How many cable news hosts took time out of their programming to discuss that?
Face it: the vast majority of Americans don’t even care about the 13 troops that died in that terrible suicide bombing; to them, they’re just another political tool.
Virtually any service member who has served in combat will tell you that war is hell. Whenever I would ask my grandfather about his experience in the Second World War and Korea, he nearly broke down in tears every time. Yet still there is some American infatuation with war. We view war and combat not as deadly, traumatic, and destructive to all forms of humanity; rather we view war as awesome, an adrenaline rush, and as a nice fun adventure that we engage in from time to time. We and our politicians push to send Americans to war for even the smallest slight. If you ask any American about any nation perceived to be an “enemy”, there’s a high chance that a large number of them will advocate military action.
And what of the servicemembers who would engage in said wars and be sent over to combat? Well to a great amount of Americans, these people are expendable. They don’t matter before they’re sent over, during their time overseas, or when they come home. They only matter when there’s a political point to be made. And for a country which prides itself so much on its military, which claims to care so much about its service members, the treatment of veterans when they return home is truly despicable. To not care for people which have seen humanity at its most brutal, at its most traumatizing, is embarrassing.
The word patriotism gets thrown around these days. To me, it is not patriotic to glorify the death and violence of war. It’s not patriotic to view America’s service members (or anyone) as being expendable. And if you claim to care about our country’s troops, yet continue to advocate for them to be sent to die, you simply are not a patriot. I pray that I am not alone in my feelings. Because this endless war, this constant beating of the wardrum, this is not patriotism; this is insanity.
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