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GUEST OPINION: After 10 years, it’s well past time to bring troops home

Rep. 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.


Dig Deeper

View the Oct. 4, 2011, floor statement by Rep. Lynn Woolsey on the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war

17 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: After 10 years, it’s well past time to bring troops home”

  1. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Commonsense – I’m not arguing for a “one size fits all” foreign policy, or saying that we need to “play nice.” I’m saying that we should have a foreign policy that is not just military. I’ve lived in the developing world for a number of years, and it is amazing how little it takes to improve conditions dramatically. Clean water instead of sharing a muddy creek with their animals. Micro-loans to help start small businesses. This is not “playing nice” with bullies, but rather helping individuals and villages to become self-sufficient. You do this, and you reduce radicalism. When you deal with a country like Iran, obviously this will not work, and different approaches are needed. But I have to wonder if we had spent more time helping, and less time supporting dictatorships over the last 100 years, whether their might be fewer countries out there that hate us…

  2. bear says:

    Gee, could we balance the federal budget before the tea-partiers shut down the entire government to pay for unwinnable wars?

    A few facts?

    -the Defense budget is now $850 billion.

    -the entire military establishment didn’t stop 19 guys with boxcutters on 9/11.

    -the entire Soviet military couldn’t take Afghanistan.

    -you can’t stop terrorism by taking and holding territory at great cost for decades.

    -Afghanistan is certainly starting to look like Vietnam. Look it up.

    - nobody here appears to be writing from Afghanistan, or claims to have relatives serving there.

    -my nephew deploys next year.

  3. truth in news says:

    HOLY CRAP! I think Woolsey is right! We need to bring those troops home AND PUT THEM ON THE BORDER TO KEEP OUR COUNTRY SAFE!

  4. Greg Karraker says:

    There are only two valid reasons for our presence in Afghanistan, and one of them is actually in Pakistan.

    1. It is used as a training ground for terrorists. We can solve a great deal of this problem with satellites and drones.

    2. We cannot let any Afghanis get their hands on Pakistani nukes. We could solve this problem by having 10,000 troops guard these facilities in a purely defensive role.

    Casualties would drop. Expenses would drop. And we could forget the futile exercise of trying to civilize tribes that are still stuck in the Stone Age,

  5. Commonsense says:

    Again, I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.
    There is no one size fits all to foreign policy, and in most cases, each country is going act based on self interests, period. And, much will depend on the timing of things. But, there are some areas/populations that will just never have a positive view of us, our government or our culture. So how nice we are won’t realistically have any significant impact on how a country (government) or it’s governed view us. Her idea just isn’t realistic. There are many countries (ones we haven’t “invaded”) we’ve been giving millions in aid both publically and privately for decades (both monetary and non-monetary) and in many of those areas, we are still viewed negatively, for many reasons, most having to do more with the individual governments/countries then us really. And, something another poster said has some truth to it, many are quick to be very critical of our military/government, but will be the first to cry foul when we aren’t there to protect against “human rights” violations prevelant in many of those regions. We can’t have it both ways.

  6. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Commonsense – most folks in the world are just trying to get enough to eat and to be safe from violence. When they don’t have that, they become more likely to fall for radicalism. So I believe that her “Smart Security” does make sense for much of the world. Obviously, it won’t work in places like Iran, N. Korea and other “bullies,” but as a general policy for other poor states that aren’t already anti-American, I think it makes sense.

  7. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Josh, I feel for you having to live in such a liberal area…maybe you would feel better if you moved to someplace like Orange County…
    @Graeme – I don’t believe it was the Afghanistan war that Obama wanted to end, but rather Iraq…
    @Jim, I don’t think that she was referring to Afghanistan when she talked about “Smart Security,” but rather as a general strategy. It obviously won’t work in an existing conflict, but if we had done something like this after the Soviet Union had left instead of just ignoring the country, it might have prevented the Taliban from gaining control in the first place.
    Here’s my two cents worth. I believe that we had a worthy goal in Afghanistan, but as long as there is corrupt leaders over there, I doubt anything positive can come from this. I believe that we need to wind down our efforts over there. We could support the Afghan government’s efforts to keep the Taliban from retaking the majority of the country back using drones, air support and other anti-terrorism tactics without most of our ground forces. Until our ground forces are out of there, we are dependent on Pakistan for the supply routes. To me, Pakistan is the real worry. Afghanistan under Taliban rule would be humanitarian disaster – one of many around the world – but not a threat to the US. Pakistan, on the other hand has nukes, which could easily get into terrorist hands…

  8. Commonsense says:

    Although, I rarely if ever agree with Woolsey, she has one valid point here, either we commit to a goal, and get it done or we should get out. Bush should have gone in initially with more troops, equipment and more defined goal, but based on politics we didn’t, so we need to do it now or start leaving.
    However, her smart security plan is totally out of touch with reality, and the idea that we have to be nice to be liked is beyond idiotic. It’s akin to telling your child to just be extra nice to the bully and then he will like and respect you. That’s bound to work about 1 out to 100 times, if any.
    There are people in this world who hate western ideas and culture, they always will, and they would like to blow all of us up, period. To pretend otherwise is living in a dream world that just doesn’t exist. I’m very glad she will be retiring soon, but of course expect this area to elect a clone (sadly).

  9. Non Violent says:

    Josh Stevens:

    You need to focus on the people who know what they are talking about rather than making caustic comments.

    Note that the American Military GENERAL now says that the US Government engaged in the Afghan war without knowing what it was doing.

    Ten years of waste. Classic boondoggle by the US Government trying to play world cop and failing as usual.

    See today’s headline below:


    U.S. Had ‘Frighteningly Simplistic’ View Of Afghanistan As War Began, Retired Gen. McChrystal says


    Thursday, October 6th 2011, 9:50 PM

  10. Jim says:

    Is she serious??

    ““Smart Security” — humanitarian aid, infrastructure development, diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution”

    These are the same people who strap bombs to themselves and blow up their own people. Does Woolsey actually believe that “aid” (money), infrastructure development (construction), diplomacy (talking) and peaceful conflict resolution will do any good with the Taliban??

    I’m stunned the idiots voted this woman into office for nearly 20 years. Oh wait, no I’m not. Voters are idiots.

  11. Dogs Rule says:

    War is a central profit center for contractors and wars provide tons of government jobs. The feds don’t care what anyone says about war. We’re in it until they say we’re not.

  12. Winston Smith says:

    @Graeme Wellington

    What, exactly, is OUR* fault?

    And, Mr. PD Troll, stop exaggerating… re-building the surface of the Moon would be a lot easier and cheaper than rebuilding Afghanistan. So, give it a rest.

    *Caps lock = Serious Business right here!

  13. Graeme Wellington says:

    Yet again Sonoma County… It’s YOUR fault. You elected Lynn Woolsey for 20 years!

    Why hasn’t Obama ended the war like he promised anyway? Trying to re-build Afghanistan is like trying to re-build the surface of the Moon.

  14. Josh Stevens says:

    One thing we could do to end this war faster is get rid of the Rules of Engagement that are contributing to our casualties and giving the enemy the ability to keep fighting.

    I can’t stand Obama,and I look forward to his defeat.But I appreciate the fact that he has increased the drone attacks to 5x what Bush used.

    Oh,and by the way,

    If you’re a liberal who agrees with Woolsey and you still plan on voting for Obama,please have the decency to spare us your hypocritical drivel.

  15. Non Violent says:

    YES, it is time to get our troops home from all over the globe.

    But, don’t expect it to happen. The US government doesn’t care whether you like war or not. The US government doesn’t care whether you like your taxes paying for police actions around the world. Just pay those taxes.

    There is something about being Commander in Chief that pollutes the mind of every President including Obama.

  16. Mike says:

    Woolsey’s pitch so yesterday’s news. She would probably endorse a North Korean missile landing on the PT boat in Petaluma. This is the fear of one of her followers running for her job.

    War is not a pleasant task. It involves killing people and blowing up things. We were attacked on 9-11 from Afghanistan. We did not attack Afghanistan. Now we are trying to clean up the mess and get some order over there.

    Giving out roses and tie-dye to the Taliban is not going to bring peace to that unhappy land. What will Woolsey say if Obama pulled out and the women of Afganistan began to be killed and any of the small social advances made ceased? Would she blame the US for not protecting the women and causing the tragedy?

    The answer is yes. In Woolsey’s mind all of the ills of the world are caused by American foreign and military policies.

    Best solution, let Woolsey drift off to her world of peace and bliss and ignore her musings on world peace and the economy where she is out of her depth.

  17. Kirstin says:

    Yes, it is time to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. I’m sure our military leaders can put together a plan to bring our troops home in an orderly way that will cause a minimum of confusion and upheaval among the citizens of those countries. We should not be occupying any country indefinitely.