Editor’s Page

Guest Editorial by Fred Mittag

“Bring ‘Em Home, Send ‘Em To College”


Obama was methodical and wanted to hear all views about a strategy for Afghanistan. But the consensus resulted in a flawed decision. 

Helen Thomas wrote that Obama failed to mention the greatest contrast between Vietnam and Afghanistan – the draft. Students at the University of Houston discussed regularly how conscription into Vietnam would disrupt their lives.

Many in the volunteer Army are those for whom other opportunities seem remote, often blacks and Hispanics. Despair, plus the romance of the uniform, are the attractive magnets of death and injury. But not enough, so we make Erik Prince a billionaire by relying on the far more costly mercenaries from Blackwater – killers beholden to Prince more than to General Petraeus.

Politicians glorify our “brave soldiers” and honor their “sacrifice” – then reject sacrifice for the rest of us. A war tax has been proposed to pay for Afghanistan, but met immediate hostility. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, said, “I am damn tired of a situation in which only military families are asked to pay any price whatsoever for this war.” For his colleagues, however, blood spilling from volunteers is O.K., but please don’t make us pay taxes!

Widespread unemployment distracts the public from interest in the war. There is bipartisan agreement that we should expand warfare without paying for it. The Bush tax cuts for the rich have greatly reduced revenue. Instead, we borrow from China to pay for our wars.

Frank Rich asked in a recent N.Y. Times column how putting more troops in Afghanistan would “vanquish” Taliban forces. Their headquarters is in Pakistan – where U.S. troops may not tread.

The Nation noted that it’s a myth that the greatest danger to American security is a terrorist attack from Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks were launched in America, and al-Qaeda operates freely in several countries.

The Taliban is homegrown, making this a civil war. President Karzai’s last “election” was a fraud, and with only a 10% literacy rate, few people understand the issues. Tribalism produces constant intrigue, conspiracy, and betrayal. Corruption is out of control forever. We have just learned that American military bases are guarded by infiltrated Taliban.

The Powell Doctrine states “Every resource should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing U.S. casualties and ending the conflict quickly.”

“Quickly?” Bush diverted troops from Afghanistan to Iraq and we are now in the tenth year. There are incongruities, raising the question of what our mission really is. How will we know when we have won? Nobody will sign surrender papers; it will be a subjective judgment.

“War Against Terror” is an abstraction, like “war against evil.” Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City horror was a Christian American. Abstraction causes problems in the detention of prisoners whose status remains legally uncertain. Al-Qaeda is stateless, and resides in a number of places. They are criminals and the Nation believes that “The best way to keep Americans safe from terrorism is through effective intelligence, expert police work and judicious homeland defense. These practical measures cost far less than war and occupation in Muslim lands, which arouse hatred of the United States – and give strength to Islamist extremists.”

Afghanistan is a dilemma. We will lose whether we stay or leave. We should therefore concentrate our nation building at home, including health care, education, the economy, and infrastructure. How about a train tunnel under the Hudson, Governor Christie?

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