“In the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight”
― Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
America, where only one percent of the population has served in the armed forces, is sufficiently detached from the daily experience of war service members endure that I suspect most people can live weeks or months without considering the hardships and sacrifice of service members and their families.
Veterans Day has its roots in the deep grief that followed World War I — the “War to End All Wars,” as it was called in a more innocent time. In the bright light of over a century of hindsight, it’s easy to criticize the naïveté of leaders who hadn’t yet learned that technology always evolves more quickly than the tactics and policy used to manage it.
We, and the technology we wield today, are no different. The future will judge us harshly unless we learn to count the cost of war in lives, not dollars or barrels of oil. Veterans Day serves as an annual reminder of the human price of war, and that we’re never as prepared as we think we are to start a new one.
A rare sight–the funeral of a general officer killed by the enemy. I send sincere condolences to MG Greene’s family, as well as to the 2,341 other U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since 2001, some of whom were my friends.
Perhaps, now that such a senior officer has been brought down by treachery, the National Command Authority will accept that it’s time to join the ranks of great empires that tried in their hubris to subdue Afghanistan, and failed. The American Empire will be remembered in history with the likes of Alexander the Great’s Macedonia, the globe-spanning British Empire of Queen Victoria, and the once-mighty Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It’s time to bring our forces home from land wars in Asia and spend American resources where they’re needed most–here at home. Haven’t we lost enough lives propping up a puppet Afghan government that will only revert back to its original and eternal nature as soon as we’ve departed? The people of Afghanistan have proven for millennia that they are as patient as the Hindu Kush. They’ll wait.
Photo: #USArmy photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller
The funeral procession of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene processes through Arlington National Cemetery during a military funeral in his honor at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Memorial Chapel in Arlington, Va., Aug. 14, 2014. Greene is the highest-ranking service member killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This morning I woke up thinking of a long trip I once took in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, from FOB Salerno to a town near the Pakistani border called Khowst. The trip started with a nausea ride aboard a USMC CH-53.
We took the next leg of the trip by truck.
Grit crunching between teeth. Dust in the eyes.
Young soldiers hurling insults in English, Spanish, and Pashtu to stave off fear of the ambush we were warned to expect on the narrow, confined road through the village.
We all agreed later it was the children playing in the road that saved us the trouble.
I carried a little digital camera all over that country. One image I don’t need a photo to remember is a particular little kid cringing and frozen in terror as a truckload of foreign troops rolled through his town.
I wonder where that boy, now a man, is today. Is he crouched behind a mud brick wall, clutching an old hand-me-down Soviet rifle?
Here’s one sight he’ll never see again: