On October 7, 2001, the Bush administration launched “Operation Infinite Justice”, which was hastily renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom” when critics said it sounded too much like we were restarting the crusades.
A few days earlier, I had attended my first political protest in Washington D.C, a rally and march opposing a military invasion as a response to September 11th. The experience was uplifting, and I met a number of future friends and activists, including Sally Newman and Clint Hendler, but the media’s dishonest coverage of the protest was crushing (I penned a seething op-ed in response).
In the spring of 2009, I was on my way to work when I saw on a USA Today front page story that 37% of Americans now thought the war was a mistake, roughly the same believing it was no longer worth fighting. That was astonishing- on the day of that late September 2001 rally, we were a mere 9% minority. I was determined to get back involved, but what wore me down more than anything is how little people care about a war that seemingly does not seem to affect their daily lives.
For many, the war does not go unnoticed. To the people of Afghanistan, there has been no peace for multiple generations, and my heart rests with them above all others. Neither is there rest for the troops now serving there, some on their fourth or fifth deployments. An all-volunteer army spares us, but too often leaves those who serve in our place broken, wounded, or dead. There have already been more NATO coalition deaths in 2010 than 2009, which were more than 2008, which were more than 2007, which were more than 2006, which were more than 2005, which were more than 2004, which were more than 2003. Progress. The three worst months of the entire war for NATO casualties have been June, July and August of 2010. Progress.
Escalating this war was the one campaign promise President Obama was determined to keep. The war has revealed the impotence of a $700 billion Pentagon war machine that cannot put away a rag-tag group of ‘militants’. The war has revealed the impotence of a civilian operation that cannot insist trust from its partners in Kabul or Islamabad, even as we shower both with billions of dollars in aid money. The war has always been a failure. Nine years. $353 billion. Progress.
Nine years can be numbing. That’s why we like Make Out Not War, which we are bringing back this Saturday to commemorate this anniversary. People pay attention to pink stickers and people making out. That’s when we remind them that the war is not over. In fact, American combat troops have been on the ground in Afghanistan longer than they were in Vietnam. Happy birthday, war in Afghanistan.
A little over a year ago I started a blog, Out of Afghanistan, which was pretty strong on substantive content, and started off with decent site traffic. Unfortunately, by the end of its four and a half month run, readers found it “too depressing,” as did I. Rare was the good news day, and time did not permit me to properly explore all the reasons the war was going disastrously. Most disappointing to me was how littl