By LYNN WOOLSEY
Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, represents the 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives
When the first airstrikes were launched against Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, I don’t think many Americans imagined we would still be at war on the same date in 2011.
But here we are exactly a decade later, tragically still mired in a military occupation that is draining our treasury and destroying our people. Ten years at war — it is an anniversary that is cause for reflection but not celebration.
To date, 1,800 brave Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, the majority of them in the last two years. But that does not even begin to tell the story of the human cost. Let’s not forget the innocent Afghan civilians, 12,000 according to conservative estimates, who have died for the cause of their so-called liberation.
Then there are the American wounded, both physically and psychologically, numbering about 218,000 if you also count the Iraq war. Some of them had limbs blown off by IEDs; others have burn scars covering their bodies; and still others suffer from less visible but still devastating injuries — post traumatic stress that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
For this, American taxpayers have the privilege of parting with a staggering $10 billion a month. There is no justification for such an exorbitant expense on such a morally bankrupt policy.
At a moment of fiscal austerity, when every conceivable domestic program is on the chopping block, how can we continue to write a blank check for this war? How can we consider cuts to programs that keep people alive — Medicare, school meals and low-income heating assistance to name just a few — while throwing money at a government program that is killing them?
I have written a letter, co-signed by a bipartisan group of 69 of my House colleagues, to the deficit reduction “super committee,” urging its members to put Iraq and Afghanistan war spending on the table as it meets its mandate to identify trillions in savings.
The war in Afghanistan hasn’t even advanced our national security interests. In fact, it has made us less safe, breeding resentment toward the United States and creating more enemies than we’ve defeated. Taliban insurgents continue to rule pockets of Afghanistan at the local level, while the national government remains deeply corrupt and unable to provide basic services and security to a population burdened by crushing poverty.
There is a better way to do this. For pennies on the dollar we can protect our people by pursuing alternatives to war, what I call “Smart Security” — humanitarian aid, infrastructure development, diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution. Instead of a military surge, what we need is a much bolder civilian surge that will invest in people instead of invading their countries.
One thing that has changed over the last decade is Americans’ perception of the Afghanistan conflict. In large part because peace activists have spoken up, public opinion has turned dramatically against this war.
So, how much longer will the longest war in American history go on? Another decade? It seems unthinkable, but every time a deadline is set, it’s not long before the goalposts are moved. The latest official word is that we will have boots on the ground in Afghanistan until 2014. But in a recent “60 Minutes” interview, Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said: “Well, the plan is to win … And so, while some folks might hear that we’re departing in 2014 … we’re actually going to be here for a long time.”
There you have it, a policy of permanent warfare — in violation of common sense, moral decency and popular will. Ten years is plenty long. After a decade at war, it’s time to bring our troops home.
View the Oct. 4, 2011, floor statement by Rep. Lynn Woolsey on the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war