Offshoring War: How Obama--and Those Moments of Silence--Insult Military Sacrifice

"Honoring those who've served," President Obama said in Seoul [last week], "is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or
Memorial Day. It's about how we treat our Veterans every single day of
the year."

"Honoring those who've served," President Obama said in Seoul [last week], "is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or
Memorial Day. It's about how we treat our Veterans every single day of
the year."

Assuming, that is, that those veterans get to come home. Obama is
ensuring that hundreds of them, and soon to be thousands, won't be
coming home from Afghanistan. He's ensuring that thousands will come
home maimed, psychologically demolished, irreparable. And he's doing so
knowing, as anyone with an elementary sense of history and a vague
memory of the last 10 years should know, that the casualties are in
vain. Those men and women are dying uselessly, in cause lost years ago,
but still pursued for the same reasons Vietnam was pursued uselessly
after 1967: to save face. How ironic, how repulsive, that saving
national face hinges on the willful disfigurement of thousands of men
and women.

When a president sends soldiers to die in a war that long ago ceased
having a claim to being just, a war that quickly lost its chance of
being won, and a war fought on behalf of a non-existent nation of tribes
as ungrateful as they are resentful, hateful or malicious toward the
American presence, those Americans are no longer being sacrificed by
their nation. They're being murdered. The complicity is national, too,
down to that pathetic "moment of silence" that's become the norm at the
beginning of local government meetings, allegedly on behalf of
servicemen. That silence, more complicit than respectful, is the last
thing they need, if this nation were to show its true allegiance to
servicemen's sacrifice.

Two things happened this election season that say more about the
immoral (rather than the demoralized) state of the nation than the
mechanics of the Republican sweep. One of those things was a void.
Virtually no candidate talked about Afghanistan, now the longest war in
American history, and one claiming an average of 40 American lives a
month. The public certainly didn't care to talk about it, because it
doesn't care. And the Obama administration didn't talk about it
publicly. Why rouse another shame on its record? But it did signal that
its promise to begin drawing down forces there in 2011 can now be added
to its growing list of flip-flops, cave-ins, wilts and betrayals.

That was the second thing that happened, near the very end of the
campaign and immediately after election day. It won't be before 2014
that Americans will start withdrawing. "The end of 2014," if Joe
Lieberman, one of the Senate great war lovers, tells Army Times, as if
it were nothing more than train schedules he were playing with, not

A little taxpayer math, since Congress is refusing to extend
unemployment benefits for Americans, benefits that expire in less than
two weeks--in time for Christmas--if Congress can't muster the $33 billion
necessary to prolong them for six months. Here's how that $33 billion
stacks up against what members of Congress blindly approve, without
debate. As of September, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost us
$1.1 trillion. Afghanistan alone has cost $336 billion. Costs in
Afghanistan are rising fast: $60 billion last year, $105 billion this
year, $119 billion asked for next year, or three times that unemployment
extension in a country with 15 million unemployed. Those costs in
Afghanistan don't include caring for veterans or lost productivity and
whatever else is lost when men and women don't return, or return in

Remarkably, not an audible word from public, media or politicians
about all that. Republicans have an excuse. They're too busy reclaiming
the scene of their crime on the American economy to the kind of public
acclaim that gives slasher movies their brief popularity. What of that
oxymoron of our age, the responsible press? Justly blamed in 2003 for
swallowing Bush's Iraq fictions whole, it's not even being blamed these
days for forgetting that Afghanistan exists. There's no one to blame it,
since the public at large has reverted to thinking of Afghans as
nothing more than a type of blanket.

The GOP is probably saving its Afghanistan card for 2012, when it'll
be able to turn the tables on Obama and use his own words--used against
Bush's incompetence in 2008 and John McCain's allegiance to that
incompetence in Afghanistan--against him. It'll have every reason.

After endless dawdling last year, President Obama made what until
then was the worst foreign policy decision of his presidency: he
endorsed a plan to escalate American military power in Afghanistan, even
though, after nine years of war, American forces were nowhere near
gaining an advantage or attaining an objective, other than merely being
there. By then it was made clear by the CIA and the Pentagon that
al-Qaeda was in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan, and that Pakistan's
double-face, not to mention Pakistan's nuclear stash, is the more
serious strategic threat than either Iran or Afghanistan will ever be.
Then there's that Afghan president. The country is ruled by a corrupt,
fraudulently elected double-dealer with no interest in resolving
conflict and no respect from Afghans at large, let alone for US troops.
But Obama and Hillary Clinton--a secretary of state even more ineffective
than Condoleezza Rice or her husband's Warren Christopher--still pay
tribute to the guy as if he were their equal.

Here's what we get in exchange: Last month the war entered its 10th
year. So far this year, 431 U.S. soldiers have been killed, by far the
highest tally of any year since 2001, for a total of 1,378 American
soldiers killed. Last year's total: 317. The war's evolution has the
grim distinction of annually breaking the record of US soldiers' deaths
nine years in a row. Add to that the soldiers killed from NATO and other
allied countries, and the tally rises to 2,203. Add the Afghan tally,
which registers barely or not at all in most Americans' idea of the war,
and we're into the tens of thousands, with nothing gained and less
settled: The Taliban controls most of the country. The US and NATO
militaries are pulling off isolated, tactical victories, but they're not
altering the overall equation. There's no victory here-not one to
preserve, certainly not one that can be gained.

That was true in 2001. It's been true since, with no let-up except in
cavernous illusions whenever it's time to pony up more billions and
more troops, and whenever the elected have to pander to veterans with
those words of respect so insultingly at odds with the reality of the
country's contempt for its troops. True, returning soldiers aren't being
spat on at airports. They're being applauded. They're being invited to
schools and honored in church. But that's more vile than the spitting,
because it amounts to a celebration of indifference: Thank you for
fighting and dying over there, wherever that may be. Now don't bother us
with details. Facebook status updates beckon.

The economy's been outsourced. Why not the war? "So I want all of you
to know when you come home your country is going to be there for you,"
Obama told those prop soldiers in Seoul. "That is the commitment I make
to you as Commander-in-Chief. That is the sacred trust between the
United States of America and all who defend its ideals." There's an even
more sacred trust: those soldiers' lives, whose loss demeans the very
ideals Obama claims to be defending.

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