Loss of life in Afghanistan an 'atrocity,' U.S. should end operations now, says Marine veteran who chairs California Democratic Party veterans caucus
The report Saturday that the crash of a Chinook helicopter killed 30 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is just one more sad reason we need to end operations sooner rather than later in that theatre of war. I've been there and we need to get our brothers and sisters home now.
It was the deadliest day for our U.S. troops in Afghanistan since it began in 2001. These men and women have real families and friends who will never see them again. This is part of a continuing tragedy playing out in Afghanistan.
When a majority of Americans believe this war is not worth fighting for, and when a majority of Americans decide they want the US out of Afghanistan, from that moment on, every life of one of our service members lost is a dishonor to the commitment and sacrifice they've made for their values of freedom and democracy.
Not only do polls show a majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – believes the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, our policy makers admit we cannot win and the war has not made us any safer. But they continue to put good and brave Americans in harm's way.
We have lost about 1,600 troops in this war, and dead and injured total nearly 13,000, a number seldom reported by the news media, and largely unknown to the public. That is an atrocity
A June Pew Research Center poll showed the war confirms what many of us veterans have been saying...that the war is very unpopular with Americans.
A majority of those polled found that, for the first time, Americans want troops to come home as quickly as possible. Fifty-six percent approved of such a withdrawal, up from 40 percent from last year.
So why aren't we deploying faster?
No amount of hand-wringing or condolences by politicians, or monuments to the dead, will make up for this loss of life. It's time to leave Afghanistan as swiftly and safely as possible. Not at the convenience of politicians in Washington, but because it is right.
While engaging in operations overseas, there was much I did not agree with or did not make sense to me, including false and inaccurate intel, lack of supposed WMDs and weapon cashes and the innocents caught in the middle of it all. And many of the so-called "guilty" we suspected of being the "enemy" turned out to be innocent.
For the most part, I felt much of this was isolated and didn't question it. It was not until years later that I began to be critical of our war policy and not until I began dialogue with other veterans did I realize these incidents were not isolated, but instead consistent with our foreign policy.
We dishonor the patriotism and the sense of justice of our brave men and women by sending them to fight, proclaiming that they sacrifice for democracy and national security when, in fact, they really just struggle and die in support of nothing more than a proven criminal regime
I'm reminded of John Kerry's famous April of 1971 quote to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
“How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?”
Chair, Veterans Caucus, California Democratic Party
Rick Reyes is chair of the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party. He is a U.S. Marine veteran, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, he has been a small business owner, and co-founding member of Veterans for Rethink Afghanistan. He works on a wide range of issues that affect veterans, and service members, and is an outspoken critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has visited Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian mission and continues to work with Congress and nationally as an advocate to end the wars, and improve U.S. foreign policy.