Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reign of Errors: Climbing Out Of The Hole

As we began gathering articles and data for today's commentary, more than a few painful facts kept falling on our heads as we climbed through our research.

For example, when the mess that is now Afghanistan began in earnest in late 2000, there were children who were barely going through their terrible twos - who now are going through puberty. A dozen years ago, alphabet phrases like 'IED', 'TBI' and 'PTSD' were rarely heard in popular culture. The idea back then that members of the regular U.S. military - let alone members of the National Guard - would be sent to multiple foreign countries for three, or four, or more tours in a four-to-six year time span was almost unheard of.

Now, after America has been involved in a war that has been going on for a dozen years, every one of those things has become all-too common for most Americans.

Sadly, some Americans still haven't seemed to grasp the rules, and don't know how to act with respect when they're in another country. Further, some of our military leaders still don't seem to understand our service members are human beings, not machines.

We admit; though we touched on it on Monday, we've been a bit loathe this week to talk about the shooting massacre in Afghanistan over the last weekend. Too many facts are still unknown - and will likely remain so for who knows how long.

What we do know is this: Last weekend, a U.S. soldier, trained as a sniper, with a history of TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury, suffered in a attack from an IED in Iraq - disappeared from his base in Afghanistan. He had been through four tours of duty over the last eight years in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This soldier walked into the homes of at least two Afghan families, in the midle of the night, and killed sixteen people including nine children.  While U.S. military forces insist the soldier was alone, Afghan witnesses still say there were multiple shooters, though claims appear to focus on only one soldier doing the killing. The suspect soldier now faces trial within the military justice system, and will be prosecuted under the death penalty statutes of the UCMJ - the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

For war-weary populations, in both the U.S. and Afghanistan, this has been just the latest sign in a series of small but shameful actions by U.S. and NATO personnel, that it is time for the Americans to leave.

A year ago - or even two - many hawkish Republicans were still saying that America had far too much to do in Afghanistan for the U.S. to begin making plans to leave. The howls from the American political right were at times loud, and the claims that President Obama didn't know what he was doing were still rampant, as the President began trying to get us out of Afghanistan.

Now, one of the GOP's biggest critics of Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said he supports the President's efforts to transition our nation out of Afghanistan. McConnell isn't the only one who now wants the U.S. out of Afghanistan. In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, even traditionally hawkish Republicans have soured on the war - and most Americans believe even the Afghans no longer want us there.

In the depths of all this dark news, the light at the top of the hole, dug by our nation's leaders a dozen years ago, may finally be coming into view.

The calls to end the war have grown loud enough - even from Republicans - that President Obama may be able to speed up our withdrawal from Afghanistan, as he originally wanted to do years ago. Major businesses like Disney are already pledging to hire thousands of veterans when they return, which is another good sign - both for the veterans and the economy.

Whether you believe we were persuaded into this dozen years of disaster by the Bush administration, or whether we collectively just incompetently stumbled America down this deep hole, the fact remains - we're not out yet. There will likely be more small disasters that will fall on our collective heads before we finish clawing our way out. This latest massacre is sadly another one of those.

We hope that once our nation is out of this hole, America - and those who lead it - finally learn not to do anything even remotely like it ever again.

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