O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
On Veterans Day, New Hampshire newspaper and online readers were treated to an op-ed piece by Margaret Hassan, a Democrat and the state’s junior senator, informing us of her trip to Afghanistan and praising our brave men and women serving there. It is all well and good to celebrate the valor of our armed forces, but the question is why are those troops there 18 years after we entered that far-off land? Yet, there is not a word in Sen. Hassan’s article about how she and her Senate colleagues will pressure the president and the generals into bringing our troops home, and soon.
Presidents and congresses are very good at getting our nation into wars, not so good at getting us out. We went into Afghanistan in 2001 with the understanding that the Taliban in Afghanistan had been hosting and training the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked America on 9-11. The al Qaeda are gone and the Taliban government has long since been dethroned, replaced by one of our own creation.
Yet U.S. troops remain there, fighting Taliban and assorted terrorists over the future of Afghanistan. If Afghanistan falls, will the al Qaeda return or will ISIS take their place? Will Pakistan and other nations in the region be similarly overtaken? Today, 44 years after the fall of Saigon, the falling dominos have yet to reach the Pacific Coast of the American mainland, or Hawaii or the Philippines. Do we want to continue fighting today over wars and conquests we might imagine in the future?
Our 18-year war in Afghanistan is only a symptom of a larger problem. The whole controversy over the famous phone call from President Donald Trump to the president of the Ukraine has given rise to the accusation that by delaying the delivery of nearly $400 million in military aid to the government in Kiev, President Trump jeopardized our national security in an effort to pressure the Kiev regime into investigating one of Trump’s political rivals. But how and when did Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union, become a part of our national security network? Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S.-led NATO alliance has been expanded from the original 12 to 28 nations, but Ukraine is still not one of them. Does any and every nation on earth belong to our foggy, yet ever-expanding notion of our national security?
We like to think that in every war, the young men and women serving in the combat zones are fighting for our safety, our security, our liberty. Hardly. No Afghan, Taliban or otherwise, has threatened us, our families, our right to vote, our freedom of religion, speech or the press, or the right of the people to peacefully assemble and seek redress of grievances. Ironically, we do that to ourselves whenever we impugn the motives and malign the patriotism of those who protest our military involvement in remote places of the world that have, at most, a theoretical or imagined relationship to our national security. That serves to keep the blood, the corpses and the weapons of war flowing, but it does not make us more secure. On the contrary, killing more people overseas and boosting the national debt to increasingly dangerous levels actually threaten our national security.
President Trump has promised to end the “endless wars,” one reason he was elected. Congress can help him do that, but not by being bystanders or by taking junkets to war-torn countries to tell us how wonderful our troops are. We already know that. Congress controls the purse strings and has the power to declare war. If impeachment is to be a deterrent to presidents going rogue, let it be invoked for something more substantial than what a president reportedly said to another head of state about the U.S. president’s potential rival. Let it be brought into play when a president wages war without authorization from Congress or when the commander in chief ignores a vote of Congress to disengage from a war. That would be a useful tribute to our nation’s veterans and, more importantly, those currently serving. It would be a far more meaningful tribute than is usually offered by mouthing the words, “Thank you for your service.”
Jack Kenny, a Vietnam War veteran, is a freelance journalist living in Manchester, NH.