Out of Afghanistan, Now
No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. Last week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war. In an hourlong State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama devoted less than one minute to the conflict. Given the sacrifices our country has made for nearly 10 years, the phones in our offices should be ringing off the hook with calls from those who are tired of being told that the United States doesn't have enough money to extend unemployment benefits or invest in new jobs.
There is no excuse for our collective indifference. At 112 months, this is the longest war in our history. More than 1,400 American service members have lost their lives in Afghanistan; over 8,800 have been wounded in action. Tens of thousands have suffered other disabilities or psychological harm.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, our so-called ally, President Hamid Karzai, is corrupt. Transparency International recently ranked Afghanistan as the world's third-most corrupt country, behind only Somalia and Burma. The Afghan military and police are not reliable partners, and al-Qaida is someplace else.
Why do we need to sacrifice more American lives? Why must we continue to align ourselves with a government that commits fraud in elections? Why aren't we using all our resources to go after the terrorists that murdered so many of our civilians on Sept. 11, 2001?
To be fair, there are a handful of prominent critics on the left, center and right. But most Americans are silent about the enormous sacrifice our country has made in blood and treasure.
What are we giving up to maintain the status quo? Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz says the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, including interest payments on the money borrowed for these wars and care for our wounded soldiers and veterans, are likely to total $4 trillion to $6 trillion.
The human and financial costs of the war are unacceptable and unsustainable. It is bankrupting us. The United States should devise an exit plan to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan, not a plan to stay four more years and "then we'll see."
The discussion of Afghanistan shouldn't be about politics, which we acknowledge are difficult, but what is right for our country. And the right thing is to end this war.
© 2011 Washington Post