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Afghanistan, the forgotten war

By Mary Hladky

Watching the PBS series on the Vietnam war is a graphic reminder of the horrors of war. Unfortunately, one of the few things the US government learned from Vietnam was how to hide the horrors of the Afghanistan war from public view as much as possible, to prevent the backlash experienced during the Vietnam war. No body counts, no reporters roaming free, only embedded journalists, minimal media coverage with little footage of the actual war, and no pictures of coffins returning home.

The Trump Administration has decided to continue to support the war in Afghanistan, only with more troops and no stated end game. As this war completed its 16th year, on Oct. 7, more troops were on their way to Afghanistan. The suffering of our troops, their families, and the Afghan people will continue.

Afghanistan is the forgotten war, even though it is currently the United States’ largest military foreign engagement, with 16,000+ troops and tens of thousands of defense and agency contractors.

The only people who benefit from this war are the military contractors and the corrupt Afghan government, made up of many drug and war lords guilty of human rights abuses and war crimes. The Afghan government controls, protects, and benefits from the enormous poppy crop that supplies over 90 percent of the world’s heroin. SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction) reports that reconstruction in Afghanistan is nearly nonexistent after an expense of $100 billion.

The Afghan government, which the US has propped up with billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, remains overwhelmingly corrupt, a government the Afghan people will never accept.

In the meantime, the Taliban has grown in numbers and holds more territory than ever before, 40-50 percent of the country.

The human costs of war for our troops, the Afghan forces, and civilians has been enormous. Death, injuries, and nearly a trillion dollars have been wasted for no redeemable benefit. Yet instead of pursuing peace, our government continues to opt for more war.

Americans need to take a stand against the Afghanistan war. We need to reflect on what it is that we believe. Ask yourself two basic questions:

How, as Americans, do we continually accept sending young men and women to risk their lives for a futile, never-ending war?

What would you say to a mother who loses her son or daughter in Afghanistan? Can you explain what her child actually died for? What was the noble cause?

It’s up to every one of us who are uncomfortable with the answers to these questions to demand an end to the Afghanistan war.

—Mary Hladky, vice chair of the PeaceWorks-KC board, serves on the boards of Military Families Speak Out and United for Peace and Justice. Her son, Ryan, an Army infantry officer, was deployed to Afghanistan for 13 months at the height of President Obama’s surge.

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