By Tim Plouff
The scandalous debacle unfolding over the past few weeks with the tumultuous abandonment of the Afghanistan war by the United States will create never-ending finger pointing, blame games and incessant media spin that shades the truth — the second real pandemic affecting Americans today, the absence of truth. It will also be another reminder of the vast separation between the all-knowing/do-nothing elite class that exists throughout our nation’s politics and our (diminishingly effective and immense) bureaucracies, and those citizens who have to deal with the repercussions and the reality of grossly erroneous decisions.
Every institution failed the Afghanistan people and this war: the intelligence community (fast becoming a misnomer), the bureaucrats who didn’t prepare for the unfolding events, the politicians who didn’t seem to care other than making their myopic claim to finishing the job (Come on, man!) as well as the corrupted government of this tribal slab of grit in Central Asia. Credibility is short for all, and as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated, “Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”. His regrettable record remains intact, but he is not alone.
Again, who pays the price for these institutional failures? Not the decision makers. Rarely are they held to account for their misguided philosophies. Yet we will witness the full and brutal payment of the Afghani citizen’s blood for any allegiance to the U.S. and our efforts to instill (install?) democracy in a place that few understand, and fewer still have been able to govern.
As we get to the 20th anniversary of the largest terrorist attacks on mankind — ever, thus far — we are witness to the full-circle dynamic of reaction to the horror that was foisted on America by Islamist terrorists based in Afghanistan in 2001, to what will surely be more such attempts on American lives after we invested 1 trillion U.S. dollars over 20 years only to see it all come to a pathetic and embarrassing end.
On that September Tuesday 20 years ago, almost 3,000 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists using four jets to unleash their horror. More than 25,000 people suffered injuries. More people would certainly have been killed in Washington, D.C., if not for the heroic acts of the individuals on United Flight 93 who selflessly sacrificed everything to prevent their airplane from reaching its fateful destination.
Our intelligence community failures, the pols who denied the risks assessments and the lack of intelligence sharing was endemic to the mistakes of 9/11. Sound familiar right now? Have we learned anything?
After 9/11, the men and women of the U.S. military stood out as the last bastion of sensible reality, the only form of our government that could actually perform to some level of success. Thousands of new recruits signed on to fight the global war on terror; more citizens willing to sacrifice everything for their country. And many did. Over 800,000 servicemen and women served in Afghanistan, many doing several tours of duty.
War is ugly. It is evil. You must kill or be killed. No amount of liberal lecturing about morals or fighting standards matter on the front line. Unfortunately, for one of the best equipped and best trained fighting armies in the world, mission creep took over. “Rules of engagement” by the politicians limited the effectiveness of our fighting forces, compromising their ability to use their superior tools optimally, and altering the efforts to snuff out a relentless enemy.
Over 2,400 American soldiers lost their lives in the global war on terror in Afghanistan, plus another 3,800 American contractors. Over 66,000 Afghani soldiers have perished in the past 20 years. Thousands more civilians will continue to die.
According to the Public Affairs Office of the Maine Army National Guard, 10 Mainers in the Guard lost their lives from the Afghanistan conflict, among many more. Christopher Gelineau, Lynn Poulin, Thomas Dostie, Michael Jones, Dave Kelly, David Veverka, Patrick Damon, Richard Parker, Jessica Wing and Harold Gray were sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, our co-workers, our neighbors. They didn’t question the wisdom of their mission; they were duty-bound to serve and made the ultimate sacrifice. Duty, honor, country.
After Sept. 11, 2001, there was tremendous unity in America. Our pride in our culture, the American way, our freedoms, our way of life, was short-lived and quickly evaporated. Today, we are driven apart by partisan politics, a divisive media/big-tech establishment and an intolerance for opposing views. Who among us are willing today to make the sacrifices of the “Let’s roll” men and women who took down Flight 93, or the servicemen and women who served with honor and dignity in the Middle East battlefields?
The many lessons from Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan are painful reminders of how we are different but also of how we must treasure and value those who selflessly serve and pay inordinate costs, versus the dishonesty of those who selfishly oversee and never seem to pay any price.
Tim Plouff of Otis is retired from a 30-year career in the energy sector. He writes The Ellsworth American’s weekly auto review column.