- Veterans For Peace opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. We did not believe it was justified. As military veterans, we did not think that war and occupation were what the world needed. Eleven years later in our nation’s longest war, it is apparent that the US / NATO occupation of Afghanistan has been based on a series of lies. One of the biggest lies today is that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is succeeding, and the American people should therefore be patient with a phased withdrawal over several years.
The Pentagon’s Afghanistan strategy is up in smoke, more exposed than ever in recent news reports. The now-ended “surge” failed to break the momentum of the Afghan resistance, and officials have now abandoned their hope for a peace deal with the Taliban. Even so, there are twice as many U.S. troops, contractors and mercenaries in Afghanistan as when Obama took office.
A “withdrawal” strategy based on training Afghan police and military has been smashed by “insider killings. The Afghan people, like all people, do not want to live under foreign occupation.
The generals and politicians know their war can never be won, and they admit this behind closed doors. But they refuse to take responsibility for a ‘military defeat’ on their watch. So they lie to the public, say all is going as planned, and continue sending young men and women into a failed mission to save face.
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed and maimed. Innocent civilians, including children, are killed by US/NATO forces on a regular basis. The Afghan people had no role in the 9/11 attacks. Rather, 9/11 was made the rationale for an invasion that was already in the planning—not for freedom, democracy or human rights, but for Washington’s and Wall Street’s economic and geostrategic interests.
Over 2,134 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan – more than 250 so far this year alone, This figure does not include another one thousand NATO deaths, or contractors and mercenaries.
The seen and unseen wounds of this unjustified and failed war are killing soldiers at a higher rate than combat. A June New York Times article reported more suicides among active duty troops than soldiers dying on the battlefield with at that time 154 taking their own lives, averaging one a day. This is in contrast to 124 fatalities from fighting in Afghanistan. The deaths continue at home as veterans return to devastated communities with services cut, no jobs to be found and suffering from physical and mental injuries. According to a widely cited VA report, 18 veterans commit suicide every-day. Or to put it another way, 1 every 80 minutes.
“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?” asks Army LTC Daniel Davis, who traveled 9,000 miles through 8 provinces in Afghanistan before writing a grim assessment of the US/NATO occupation. Colonel Davis is right—nobody else should be sacrificed in a lost cause.
Withdrawing all U.S. troops immediately—as favored by a large majority of American people– would be the right thing to do. Instead, our elected ‘leaders’ in government and unelected ‘leaders’ in the Pentagon are forcing troops into multiple deployments simply because they don’t want to be embarrassed.
Soldiers have alternatives to going to war, and Veterans For Peace is actively engaged in reaching out to GIs about those alternatives. For example, they may seek to be discharged as Conscientious Objectors. Or they can demand real treatment for their physical and psychological wounds, instead of redeployment to war.
Tens of thousands of military personnel have gone AWOL since 2001. Many are living discreetly in the U.S. or seeking sanctuary in Canada, Germany and elsewhere. We support war resisters. And in contrast to cynical politicians and generals, we actually do “support the troops.”
Veterans For Peace is joining forces with the young veterans of March Forward in the Our Lives Our Rightscampaign. We are reaching out to active duty GI’s with a message of hope. “If you wish to avoid returning to war, we will help you. You don’t have to go to Afghanistan.”
For more information about Our Lives Our Rights,
Submitted by David Swanson, Charlottesville, VA.