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Freed writes: "How long should we as a nation continue to sacrifice blood and treasure for what is clearly a losing proposition?"

In this 2008 photo, thousands of miles from their loved ones, Royal Marines sing Christmas carols in Afghanistan - moments before Taliban forces staged a surprise attack. (photo: Capt. Euan Goodman)
In this 2008 photo, thousands of miles from their loved ones, Royal Marines sing Christmas carols in Afghanistan - moments before Taliban forces staged a surprise attack. (photo: Capt. Euan Goodman)

Bring My Son, and Everyone Else's, Home From Afghanistan

By David Freed, Los Angeles Times

25 December 12


ow long should we as a nation continue to sacrifice blood and treasure for what is clearly a losing proposition?

My soldier son called last month to wish his mother and me a happy Thanksgiving. My iPhone buzzed and there he was, sitting in a gun tower, his smiling face bathed in gauzy infrared light, an M249 machine gun propped at the ready behind him. For security reasons, we didn't talk about his location. It could've been Afghanistan, Iraq or Kuwait. He's spent the better part of this year serving in all three.

His infantry company will soon be rotated back to the United States after a one-year deployment. Because he's an officer, he'll probably be among those on the last plane out. We're hoping it'll be by Christmas. My son would like to be home for the holidays, of course, but his biggest concern is getting back before the start of postseason play in the NFL. He's warned me, however, that the mysteries of Army upper management may mean we are both disappointed about the timing of his return. And so the clock ticks. Slowly.

During my son's tour of duty - his first overseas assignment - the number of U.S. dead in Afghanistan climbed past 2,000, while the total wounded surpassed 18,000. That's about 500 fewer Americans killed and nearly three times the number wounded during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive in 1968. Certainly, Vietnam was a much different engagement than the one in Afghanistan, which has gone on for more than 11 years, but the casualty figures from both, in my estimation, raise the same question:

How long should we as a nation continue to sacrifice blood and treasure for what is clearly a losing proposition?

While Tet was by no means a victory for North Vietnam, the offensive demonstrated to the American public that the communist forces were still capable of waging war on a broad scale, contrary to Pentagon assurances that the enemy had been nearly beaten into surrender. Tet disabused many Americans of the notion that the war was winnable and helped spur the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Southeast Asia five years later.

In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, the Pentagon routinely claims that American-led combat power has measurably degraded the enemy's capacity to fight. Still, that enemy continues to wage war effectively. Witness the rising phenomenon of what the Defense Department refers to as "green on blue" shootings - Taliban sympathizers within the Afghan military and police turning their weapons on NATO military trainers. In 2007, there were two such insider attacks, resulting in two deaths. This year, 58 of the nearly 400 coalition military personnel who died in Afghanistan, including 35 Americans, were felled in such attacks.

These incidents don't often make the daily news cycle anymore. But they are far more important than lurid insights into the extramarital dalliances of generals. There are still about 67,000 U.S. soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines deployed in Afghanistan, alongside 37,000 military personnel from other coalition member nations. The White House has said it intends to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan more or less indefinitely, both to help train Afghan forces and to carry out counter-terrorism operations, long after NATO's mission in Afghanistan formally concludes at the end of 2014.

But what is to be gained by stationing so many troops in Afghanistan after 2014? In fact, why not leave now?

In 2001, American forces invaded Afghanistan with the goal of hunting down 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and toppling the Taliban government, which had allowed Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network safe haven. Bin Laden is now fish food, courtesy of SEAL Team 6, and what remains of his inner circle is on the run, thanks chiefly to CIA and Air Force drone strikes in the remote tribal regions of neighboring Pakistan. Logic suggests that ground forces should be stationed there instead of in Afghanistan, but that won't happen any time soon. Pakistan, our "ally" in the fight against international terrorism, wouldn't allow it.

Washington's goal from the start has been to train Afghans to the point that they can stand up alone against the Taliban. No question, some units among the 337,000 soldiers and police who compose Afghanistan's National Security Forces are up to the task. But, after more than a decade of intense drilling, many other units remain woefully, almost comically, unprepared. At what point does the problem become Afghanistan's and not ours?

It's hard to see how the United States can help much in the current climate. Joint operations have had to be significantly curtailed because of the rise in green-on-blue shootings. Indeed, Americans stationed at bases that also house Afghan military or paramilitary are now required to carry their weapons with them at all times; at night, they sleep under the watchful guard of other, fully armed Americans.

Realistically, objectively, what future is there in a partnership like that?

About five years ago, I read a book by an Islamic scholar, Rory Stewart, who decided he'd become the first tourist to walk across a post-Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Relying on his wits, knowledge of Muslim customs and the kindnesses of strangers, Stewart trekked for a month from village to village. His "The Places in Between" proved a remarkable travelogue, if for no other reason than it underscored just how primitive and disconnected much of Afghanistan really is. Loyalties rarely extend beyond the village, the tribe and Allah.

Given those realities, the idea of instilling in the Afghan people anything resembling American-style, flag-waving, defend-the-homeland nationalism is almost laughable. It would be laughable were it not for the fact that more than 2,000 brave Americans have died trying to change things. How many more have to die before enough is enough?

I want my son home. I want to watch him eat a barbecued tri-tip burrito with guacamole from his favorite restaurant, the kind he's been craving for nearly a year, the kind you can't get in an Army MRE packet. I want to see him open holiday presents. I want to watch football with him. Most of all, I don't want to lie awake anymore, staring at the ceiling, wondering if he's still alive.

I don't want him to go back to Afghanistan. I don't want anyone's son or daughter to have to go back.

It's no longer worth it. your social media marketing partner


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+85 # beachboy 2012-12-25 15:43
Dear David, It never was 'worth it'. Bush's Afghanistan War was a lie. From the start. Like Iraq. They lied in the US. They lied in Canada. They lied everywhere. Just to get your son and many nations sons to go and kill and be killed for US-imperial control of the oil sources. The final use and benefit of such mass killing has been demonstrated in the criminal acts of the banking managers, who needed to get just another few billion dollars richer yet, on our backs, and got rewarded with our money, instead of going to jail. That's the system. It's not worth one life. Afghani, US, Canadian, German, or any other. Never was. Sorry.- Fight for life with justice for all. Stop war, exploitation, oil, GMO poisoning, killing, racism,...
+41 # Elroys 2012-12-25 19:47
David - Beachboy's got it right. I was lucky - my son made it thru his 20s without the military getting hold of him. Until we, the people, stand up and mobilize, demand that wars of choice (Iraq, Vietnam, others) end, that we never again go to war to protect the interests of oil companies and the elite, our sons and daughters will continue to die for nothing. Lies and more lies, by Presidents, Congress, business elites, must end as we witness a new and more peaceful world emerge. For our children. ElliotH
+51 # DaveM 2012-12-25 15:48
Agreed, wholeheartedly. It is high time America took care of its own, at home. And it can start tomorrow, if we demand it.
+47 # beachboy 2012-12-25 16:11
[quote name="DaveM"] It is high time America took care of its own...

America always takes care of its own. Nobody else. Just that it's never the foot soldier or lowly citizen, but the elite, the 1%... wake up, support occupy, and you may get somewhere nearer to your old dream...
-10 # BostonPundit 2012-12-25 18:58
I stand willing to be corrected, but beachboy, I don't think that you are right about Bush and Afghanistan. I fully agree that the war on Iraq was based on a lie and Colin Powell has acknowledged as much -- perhaps GWB too with his lament that we never did find the WMD.
But Afghanistan was a different kettle of fish. As I recall it, the Taliban were harboring OBL and Al Qaeda and refused to give them up on the grounds that they were "guests."
It may not have been a good idea in retrospect to invade Afghanistan but surely there was some rationale for taking out the Taliban based on the Bush doctrine about harboring those who were responsible for 9-11.
The far more difficult question is why we continue to remain in Afghanistan. President Obama was never enamored of either war so his resolute staying suggests that there is more to this than we know and, giving the President his due, good reason for it.
I wish we could be out tomorrow. But I'd sure like to have more information about the implications.
+23 # Douglas Jack 2012-12-25 20:26
Boston, You stand to be corrected. Taliban Al Qaeda & Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan were creations of hundreds of millions of dollars of CIA financing to fight the Soviets. 911 is 'blow-back'. Trouble with 'universal soldiers' is falling prey to USA, Canada, NATO, Israel war games. If we want our sons to get out of self-destructiv e roles as agents of homicide, then teach them to debate, in connection at home or with some Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian, Libyan's or others from around the world. When we move from self-righteousn ess to 'dialectic' ('both-sides') engagement, then we can make peace & restore the biosphere.
+41 # Regina 2012-12-25 21:23
Besides this, Bush & Co. invaded Afghanistan on the pretext that the 9/11 killers had come from there. But they were Saudis, not Afghans, and we were attacked by rogue zealots, not by a government to retaliate against. But Bush smelled power and glory, and Cheney smelled oil and profits, and they roared our military into a country that had NOT attacked us, government-to-g overnment, to serve their own interests, and to hell with a generation of human beings on both sides.
-10 # BostonPundit 2012-12-25 22:43
I guess there is no point in further discussion when you concede that Taliban, Al Qaeda and OBL were in Afghanistan.
To Regina's point below, I don't think Bush ever said the 9/11 killers came from Afghanistan or were Afghans. Rather, he said they had been given refuge and when asked to turn them over, the Taliban refused.
As I said, my point is not whether Bush was right or wrong in his policy, but this much was true. OBL was indeed being given refuge even after he said he was responsible for the 9/11 attack and Al Qaeda had training camps there in Afghanistan.
I am not arguing about how or why Al Qaeda and the Taliban came to be or came to power. That's well known history.
My point was that Bush announced an American foreign policy doctrine - basically either you are with us on this or against us.

I am not saying that was a wise doctrine. That's a different discussion.

I don't stand to be corrected. Facts are facts.

On the broader point, as I said, I wish this war ended yesterday.

But I'd also like to know what the President thinks the stakes are and why.

It may well be control of the world's oil supply. Look at the geography and it seems obvious that Afghanistan is a route to the Middle East's oil reserves from at least one direction.
+13 # futhark 2012-12-25 23:56
Objective evidence now available indicates that Osama bin Laden and "Al Qaeda" had nothing to do with the planning or execution of the 9/11 attacks and that the war in Afghanistan was in part a wild goose chase to distract the public from demanding a probe that may have revealed the real culprits. What I am saying is that this war has been unjust, cruel, wasteful, and counterproducti ve for American interests (except Neocons) from the get-go.

Barack Obama's efforts to shift the war machine's focus from Iraq to Afghanistan have in no way mitigated the destruction and insanity of American military actions in the Middle East. Not only is this war now useless and unjust, but it has never been justifiable. It should never have happened and it must end now. Let's find the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and bring them to justice. That would be the first step in healing the wounds from which so many continue to suffer.
+6 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-26 11:20
Until we get a straight and non-laughable explanation on how Bldg # 7 just fell down with minor damage and fire, the entire 9-11 narrative is suspect. I personally know engineers that build buildings and they shake their heads when watching the video of #7 dropping in a perfect controlled implosion operation and conclude that it could only have been prepared professionally. They are also skeptical of the Big WTC buildings too.
+9 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-12-26 09:43
The Taliban offered to turn Bin Laden over to the USA for about two weeks before the war began, & Bush ignored them because he wanted that war.
+32 # Barbara K 2012-12-25 19:05
Americans have sacrificed enough, bring our kids home now. The lives of our kids, our treasure; our infrastructure is falling apart and new jobs are frozen because of the war debt. Enough of this nonsense; stop it and get us out of Afghanistan, NOW! We deserve better and so do our soldiers.
+16 # bonnettoboot 2012-12-25 19:10
It is too late, we will never have peace in the WORLD again, Our Friend Israel try to make sure of that.
+26 # Lowflyin Lolana 2012-12-25 19:13
Maybe tribal relationships are not as primitive as we assume them to be. They are, after all, relationships between people in close physical proximity to each other.

On the other hand, we in the US and other "advanced" countries do our business with each other over computers and telephone lines, rather than face-to-face and in-person.

Our cities are full of neighborhoods where no one talks to each other. Bosses are in other towns, family across the country.

Our young patriots are sent overseas to fight while we lose our freedoms at home.

It's not that they aren't heroes. They are doing their dead level best to do what they've been told is right for "the country."

It might be a good time for us to recognize that people who deal with each other face-to-face might have a lot to teach the rest of us who do not.

My brother is in Afghanistan. He would probably disagree with what I say, which may be the reason he doesn't talk to me anymore. I think he joined the Army because he couldn't stand the idea of being just another corporate dude, and I have respect for that. But when I confront the hard cold fact that at any given time on any given day he might be wiped off the planet, and I might never see him again, I think: what is it that I can say or do to introduce some sanity here?

I think the answer is to give up my car.

And to talk to people, not via text like this, but really talk. Face to face, like the Afghans.
+19 # Douglas Jack 2012-12-25 19:41
Not so fast. America, Canada, NATO, Israel is arming dissidents in 80 countries worldwide for the purposes of geo-political destabilization of existing governments for resource acquisition & control. Taliban Al Qaeda & Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan are creations of CIA financing to fight the Soviets. 911 is 'blow-back'.

Some one million Afghani's & Iraqis mostly civilians are dead now with many millions of injured. We've spread hundreds of tonnes of highly radioactive post-reactor uranium (missile penetration) over tens of thousands of sites with permanent genetic damage for anyone who attempts to rebuild their homes. When one theatre of war economy for the Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Complex quiets down, a dozen more are festered.

Yes bring your son & the rest home immediately but we've got war-reparations to make to over 100 countries & a mad war economy to stop at home. I hope you are in for the long run.
+2 # Lowflyin Lolana 2012-12-26 20:17
Really interesting link there. Thanks.
+27 # walt 2012-12-25 20:15
In the Iraq invasion and in leaving our soldiers in Afghanistan for 12 years we have shown no shame in misusing and abusing our own military.

Four and five deployments are not uncommon and nobody should have to endure that especially since it is not defending the USA.

We have lost thousands of lives and we continue to spend $2 billion per week in Afghanistan, yet we have never heard Republicans in Congress complain about the cost in tax dollars! Amazing,isn't it? And it shows what it's all about--big money contractors ripping us off!

Meanwhile we have never even demanded a full investigation into the lies told to us to invade Iraq in 2003. When are we going to wake up as a nation and demand real accountability from those who are pretending to represent us???
+5 # Lowflyin Lolana 2012-12-26 20:19
Occupy tried, but the police pepper-sprayed them and city governments took them to court while "civil rights' advocates" snoozed.
So it's still a bit of a mess,yeah.
+13 # giraffee2012 2012-12-25 20:17
Bring our men/women home and send congress + RATS + lobbyists + others we know have promoted this war for profit.
+11 # JCastron1 2012-12-25 23:05
Giraffee, what it amounts to is that We Are Far From Home, Fighting People That Are Home.

We need to introduce the definition of a Terrorist: A Terrorist is a Man with a Bomb and No Airforce.
0 # giraffee2012 2012-12-30 23:54
Quoting JCastron1:
Giraffee, what it amounts to is that We Are Far From Home, Fighting People That Are Home.

We need to introduce the definition of a Terrorist: A Terrorist is a Man with a Bomb and No Airforce.

The cons in Congress are terrorists!
+17 # massager2002 2012-12-25 21:59
Yes Mr Democrat President, you promised to bring home all the troups and yet you linger in making that decision. No more wars would balance the budget! Please, we want no more dead Fathers, Sons and Brothers. Do what you promised us you would do! No more delays!
+12 # easter planet 2012-12-25 23:03
Americans are so self-centered! The rest of the world needs to impress on you people this one thing about your military adventures which provide income for the military-indust rial complex - regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, etc., etc. - YOU BROKE IT, YOU FIX IT!
+3 # Lowflyin Lolana 2012-12-26 20:25
Reparations for war, and help for Japan NOW; cleanup of toxic waste sites---these things could keep people employed doing work that desperately needs done.

A peace army is what we need.
+11 # Archie1954 2012-12-26 00:19
And how long should the nation waste the lives and treasure of others in its search for empire? Just think how manny Afghani lives have been lost during this relentless demand for full spectrum dominance. Don't you think ity is long past time to realize that it is the US with its horrendously powerful military that is causing all the violence in the world today? The American people havbe the ability to stop the killing if they just say enough is enough!
+15 # DIAMONDMARGE 2012-12-26 07:18
Douglas Jack & All,
Until enough of us come to see the connection between the "love of guns" and the imperialist wars as the same piece of violent response to life itself, the selling of violence in all walks of US life will continue. Years ago, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced a bill to establish a Dept. of Peace. It would teach non-violence as a way of life. Join me in writing Obama to create a
DOPeace-to ask Kucinich to be its Secretary & to ask Michael Moore, Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Michael Lerner,Sister Joan Chittiser,Rev. Jim Wallis, Noam Chomsky to be ADVSIERS. Bring all our troops home FOREVER. CLOSE the nearly 1000 military bases all over the world. Wind & solar power, schools, healthcare of all. Let America truly be the country that it always promised to be.
+4 # wrknight 2012-12-26 10:31
You ask how long this shall continue? It will continue so long as Americans continue to elect fascists to Congress.
+3 # James Marcus 2012-12-26 11:39
It was never worth it. Your son is there because you failed him as a parent. You failed to make him aware of the huge lies lived by Americans, in their naiveté , in their innocence and ignorance. You trained him to 'trust and obey', like a good little 'citizen'. He may die for it. Others have, and will, for no reason, at all.
Ridiculous. there is no reason to be warring in Afghanistan except Oil, Drugs and MONEY; the Money that is spent in weapons and hostility. It is sad tragic, illegal , (Congress DID NOT declare 'War'!) and sick, sick, sick. For Nothing, ...but Money, and Military Egos.
Do you feel threatened by Afghanistan?
+5 # Old Man 2012-12-26 11:56
This country has been at war since it's inception. We are a nation of violence that never seems to stop.
This is what we get from a congress that believes in the industrialized war machine and the Greedy corporations that supply it.
I have sign every petition that comes in front of me to end the war ever since the Vietnam war. It is a sinking feeling that we as a nation let this continue.
+4 # ChanceAustin 2012-12-26 12:49
Being a "Gold Star" father already(with another son currently deployed in Afghanistan, I find that the "Press" seems to be so busy with so many things, it forgets to remind folks that we have our kids in Harms Way. This summer we averaged 1.2 dead and 12 wounded EVERY DAY from May 30th to Oct 2, yet I didn't here anyone talking about it. The "Suicide" rate for active duty is horrible including a "SEAL" commander of SEAL TEAM 4 taking his own life on Dec 22. The comment by "Douglas Jack" above "Some one million Afghani's & Iraqis mostly civilians are dead now with many millions of injured." is not correct- there is not millions of anything except dollars that are missing. Its strange but, you don't need to over estimate the numbers to prove the point. We are looking at one more "Fighting Season" where we will loss many more of our kids, but the "Cows have left the barn" on changing the 2014 date to end the war. They are drawing down as quickly as they can without jeopardizing the safety of the troops needed to protect the assets we have there. The focus needs now to be finding solutions for the over 50,000+wounded vets and getting rid of the "Hawks" like Graham and others who's major support comes from the Defense Contractors who might be crazy enough to want to start another one.
+2 # Lowflyin Lolana 2012-12-26 20:29
The military suicide rate is alarming and needs more ink.

Douglas Jack's numbers sound about right to me and may even be a conservative estimate. Various authorities have offered various counts of those killed and injured, but unless you're privy to information others don't have, a link to your source might be good.
+3 # kitster 2012-12-26 17:25


+3 # smilingeyes5 2012-12-26 20:06
You're right. Russia couldn't win in Afghanistan, what makes us think we can. If congresses children had to go the war would end quick. We need to kick oil so we don't have sacrifice our youth for it. End all wars, declared and secret. End the illegal assassination of American's and other innocent peoples.
+4 # Anarchist 23 2012-12-26 22:28
Afghanistan 'Graveyard of Empires' going back to Alexander the Great, then England, twice, Russia, once, the 'USA' once-hmm. Afghanistan 5, Great Powers 0. But it is a shame that so many on every side have died. War is a useless thing-well it does make money for the demonic 1%. The 'Official History' of 9/11 was literally 'made to order' for all these wars, but the reasons are the same-oil and pipelines. Remembering a time of youth, big folksong popular then0'Where Have all the flowers gone?' Last verse 'When will they ever learn?' Watching down the years from then until today they will probably not learn until everything is destroyed, and one must admit we are very very good at doing that.
0 # FDRva 2012-12-26 22:28
The problem here is that Barry Obama has a lot of neo-con in him--and nominally anti-war Democrats chose to overlook that.
And of course, our British "allies" prefer that Americans take the blame for the carnage.

Those two factors are very much related as Tony Blair's pre-2008 poodle W Bush could tell us. Tony has a new poodle now.
0 # tishado 2012-12-27 00:19
Ending the war in Afghanistan has always been the case of the sooner the better. The only way this war has dragged on for so long is the distraction of Iraq and then Obama's recommitment to it as his apparent deal to let us pull troops out of Iraq on schedule. Let's end it and everyone will be that much safer.
+1 # mppeace 2012-12-27 01:51
I understand Freed's desire to appeal to the--very low--political understanding of America's majority, but the truth isthat the US invasion/occupa tion of Afghanistan was, from Day One, an Imperialist aggression for geo-political domination and to control resources. That's why thousands of sacrificed GI lives mean nothing to the ruling Pentagon-Wall Street elite. Obama cannot end the Afghan war any more than he can put those criminal banksters in jail! The USA empire will "stay the course" because its Capitalist impulses are committed to suffer the "Operation Enduring Fiasco" to its bitter end.

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