On the 16th Anniversary to the Start of the US War on Terror
by Meredith Aby-Keirstead, member of the Anti-War Committee, at the MN Peace Action Coalition protest on October 7th, 2017
The MN Peace Action Coalition called this protest for today because it marks the 16th year of the US war on Afghanistan. 16 years! I have students that have never known a time where the US hasn’t been at war with Afghanistan! My 8 year old daughter has never known a time where the US hasn’t been at war. Today we are here to say that these wars must end! And we are here to say NO to expanding these conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, throughout Africa and most importantly to say NO to the use of nuclear weapons against the people of Korea!
The news media this week has been doing a lot of reflecting on 16 years of war in Afghanistan. And of course the first thing they wanted to know is how many troops are there in Afghanistan? The media and Congress pressed the Pentagon and we found out that there are 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan when we had previously been told there were 8,400! Sec. of Defense Matts this week announced that the US will be sending 3,000 more troops – thereby bringing the total to 14,000! Additionally, the Pentagon announced a new policy this week. They no longer plan to detail troop numbers or destinations (The Columbian 10/3/17 and NYT 9/30/17). What message do we have for the Trump administration on these announcements? Shame! Boo!
Similarly, this week the U.S. military overturned a requirement for its troops to be in contact with enemy forces before opening fire in an effort to relax the rules of engagement in Afghanistan (Fox News 10/4/2017). So Wednesday the US military also made it easier for them to kill more Afghans! This is outrageous! The UN reported in July already that there was a spike in civilian casualties this year under Trump. They recorded a 40% increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017 and that child casualties increased by 9%. US and Afghan airstrikes contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43% increase in casualties from the air (The Guardian 7/17/17). Making it easier for US forces to kill and bomb people in Afghanistan is the opposite of what the US government should be doing right now! We need to speak out against the US air war in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday the Pentagon said the thousands of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan will cost just over $1 billion a year. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford) said the U.S. is spending $12.5 billion overall to wage America’s longest war (New Jersey Herald 10/3/17). Meanwhile Puerto Ricans don’t have clean water or electricity! Meanwhile American classrooms are overflowing with students who need more teachers and textbooks. Meanwhile we are told that there’s no money for healthcare for people in this country. Oh, there’s money. The US government just chooses to spend it on war!
Republican Sen. Bob Corker from Tennessee told NBC news this week that we will likely have troops in Afghanistan for the next 10 years (NBC News)! We need to turn this around! This is absolutely the wrong direction for our country and for Afghanistan!
The reality is that the US is losing the war in Afghanistan and has been for some time. The truth is we should have never invaded Afghanistan.
The Costs of War Project at Brown University reports that:
- 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence (including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers)
- It is likely that many times more than 370,000 people have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation
- Over 6,800 US soldiers have died in the wars
- Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that at least 6,900 have been killed.
- 10.1 million million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people are living as war refugees because of US military intervention
Three US presidents, from both parties, have led this war. It is time for us, the anti-war movement, to take to the streets and say NO to more war in Afghanistan!
The people of Afghanistan are under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back!