Vacaville, CA.: She is walking her dogs, smiling at the thought of an intimate lunch with her husband when she gets home–he has just retired. As she approaches the house, she barely even notices the nondescript sedan with government license plates parked in the driveway, until her gaze shifts to the front door and the 3 men in Army dress uniforms with the yellow horsehead patch on their left shoulders standing in the threshold, talking to her husband. “No! No! No!” she screams, and runs towards them, waving her hands as if to make the whole scene disappear, before collapsing into her husband’s arms.
Midland, TX.: A woman is addressing a package to her son-in-law in Iraq, when she notices a similar nondescript sedan pull up, and she knows what it means even before the 3 men with the same patch get out. But her daughter answers the door, and greets them before her mom can stop her. “Mrs. Guadalupe Garza, is your husband specialist Israel Garza serving with the First Cavalry?” She is still smiling as she answers in the affirmative. “The Secretary of the Army has asked us to express his deepest regrets that your husband was killed in action in Iraq…” As the smile begins to turn into something else, this brief moment of denial before the horror sets in will be the only comfort she knows for years to come. Even now, their two small children are asking, “is this about daddy?” She slams the door shut before they can finish, while yelling “No! No! No!” She yells through the door, “you have the wrong house” as her kids stare uncomprehending.
The 3 men are the Army “casualty notification team.” These scenes are out of the series The Long Road Home, from National Geographic, about the ambush of my former unit, the First Cavalry, in Sadr City, Iraq, 2004. I am crying too as I watch. Those scenes could have been my parents in 1970. They are the parents, the spouses, the children of countless war casualties. And for what? Even now, ISIS is killing Shiites in this same place. And how goes it with our longest “war”?
From Marty Skovland, Task and Purpose, December 2017: “Whenever the justification for the ongoing war in Afghanistan is called into question, the response is typically that it’s a vital national interest. In fact, that was the very justification Obama used for his troop surge in 2009. That sentiment has been echoed more recently by Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., who said that continuing to put pressure on terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the greater South Asia area “is critical and vital to our national interests.”
“But is it? In 1996, a bipartisan working group, The Commission on America’s National Interests, proposed “vital national interests” be defined as “conditions that are strictly necessary to safeguard and enhance America’s survival and well-being as a free and secure nation.” How could an unstable, non-nuclear, economically unthreatening nation in Southwest Asia merit such a label?
“I received a little bit of clarification during an intelligence brief at Resolute Support headquarters. Officials explained that the country is home to approximately 20 of the world’s 98 U.S.-designated terrorist and violent extremist organizations, and the rationale has long been that it’s better to “fight them over there” than on American soil. That said, many of these groups did not even exist when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force on Sept. 14, 2001.
“The fact is our real national interest in Afghanistan has very little to do with Afghanistan at all. Increasingly, the more important conflict playing out is our ongoing effort to contain Russia. (sounds familiar, like the “Domino Theory” used to justify the Vietnam War) In recent years, the Kremlin’s escalating aggression has included incursions into Georgia, the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent poaching of Crimea, and a habit of meddling in foreign elections, as well as successfully maneuvering for unilateral control of Syria. These power plays have not escaped the attention of NATO-aligned countries, who have certainly made note of Russia’s recent hints about ramping up military operations in Afghanistan if the situation there grows too unstable.
“Meanwhile, Iran and Pakistan see the country as a vital trade partner, and also a critical stage on which to exert regional influence. Additionally, many of these countries see untapped economic potential in Afghanistan’s significant mineral resources — including enough battery-grade lithium to become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” The coming year will probably be the bloodiest to date. Most Afghan and NATO military officials that I talked to agree that 2017 was a year to build momentum, and that the first-year goals of the four-year road map have been met. But the violence will get worse before it gets better.”
OKAY, THAT’S ENOUGH. After Cain killed Abel, and then pretended innocence, the Lord declared “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” The blood of all of our dead, as well as that of the innocents in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where we didn’t need to be cries out to us, “ENOUGH!” Of course, I am being naive and foolish–the bloodshed will not end until the Lord redeems the earth from the curse!