Michael Prysner is an Iraq veteran and co-founder of March Forward! an organization of veterans and active-duty soldiers opposed to the wars. Read more statements from March Forward!
During former-Pres. George W. Bush’s tenure, 575 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan.
Since President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, 577 U.S. troops have perished there.
In just 19 months, the Afghan war under Obama has claimed more U.S. lives than the previous administration’s entire 88-month quagmire.
That number does not include the exorbitant number of suicides, of which June 2010 brought the highest number in U.S. military history. In that single month alone, seven GIs killed themselves while deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, along with dozens of others stateside.
That number also does not include the vastly inflamed number of GIs who are maimed, paralyzed, endure brain trauma and lose limbs. A recent study shows that in 2010, U.S. troops are being maimed at 12 times the rate they were in 2008.
These statistics are joined by the highest level of military spending in world history, and new reports that show 2010 to be the deadliest year for Afghan civilians as well as U.S./NATO troops.
This is the change in U.S. foreign policy we have gotten from the former “anti-war” presidential candidate that so many well-meaning people supported as a repudiation of the path taken by the Bush administration. That path had led to so much blood spilled, so many lives destroyed and so many resources squandered.
But all we really got was a different figurehead standing at the helm of the same war machine. Riding with Obama is the same clique who rode along with Bush. Gen. Petraeus, who presided over the bloodiest phase of the Iraq war, now presides over the bloody quagmire of Afghanistan. The long-time defense contractor sweetheart Robert Gates was retained as Secretary of Defense (who will likely soon make his exit from the Afghan war debacle). Even Frederick Kagan has been brought on to the strategy team. Kagan is from the viciously neoconservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute and was a close partner to Bush during the troop surge in Iraq.
It is not just the same commanders that have stayed in place, but the corporate interests they represent. Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, which so many recognized as part of the war drive, still has the same lucrative relationship with the U.S. government. The same defense contractors continue to rake in the biggest profits in history and enjoy the same partnership with the Pentagon. The same oil giants feasting on Iraq are waiting to cash in on Afghanistan’s new oil fields and pipelines. And the same U.S. business interests as a whole are foaming at the mouth over the vast wealth in minerals and natural resources, both in Afghanistan and in the surrounding former Soviet republics that they will be able to access with the U.S. military force in Afghanistan.
This is not what the supporters of Obama expected when they voted for a “change.” Washington and the Pentagon are still carving up the world for Wall Street, and paying for it with our blood.
A lot has remained the same. There may be a new administration, but the same generals and corporate interests are standing over the White House. When it comes to whose interests this government and these wars are serving, absolutely nothing has changed.
But what has changed is the number of dead. What has changed is the rate at which they are dying. What has changed is the number of widows, orphans, amputees and psychologically traumatized soldiers.
What has also changed is that the Afghan War Logs, leaked to the public by WikiLeaks, finally show us the reality of the military adventure in Afghanistan. They have revealed what the generals and politicians know and have known, that they are badly losing the war with no chance of “victory.” So the record-setting fatalities in Afghanistan, which continue to spike, are happening so the politicians can avoid the political setback of having lost the war.
The Obama administration has sent more U.S. troops to their deaths in Afghanistan than Bush—but many more are likely to die on Obama’s watch. The resistance in Afghanistan is stronger than ever before, and, as even the Pentagon generals admit, can never be defeated militarily.
And all we are promised is that in July 2011, based on “conditions on the ground,” the U.S. might send home some undisclosed number of troops from Afghanistan.
Last December, before Obama broke Bush’s record, he stood before the world to give the war effort a badly needed boost of support. He told us that our cause was just, that we had a new strategy to win the war, and that the end was right around the corner in 2011.
But this cause is not just. This is nothing but a war to access resources, new markets, and labor previously off-limits to U.S. capitalism. The new strategy to win the war has gone up in flames—even their highly publicized propaganda operation in Marjah, which was supposed to showcase the correctness and success of the new strategy, was a complete disaster and called a “bleeding ulcer” by McChrystal before he was fired.
The end is not around the corner—that was for public consumption. The promise was only to “begin withdrawing some troops.” Gen. Petraeus has already hinted that even this minor reduction in troops will be postponed. There is currently no end in sight.
This is why March Forward! stands in support of those service members who have decided to refuse to take part in this war.
All the anger, frustration, protests and political action seen under the Bush administration forced the billionaires on Wall Street and their millionaire puppets in Washington to adjust their strategies to maintain crucial public support for the wars. So they gave us President Obama. And it worked, for a little while.
But the skyrocketing body count makes it clear that all the things about these wars that the people turned against under Bush are still firmly in place under Obama. There is no reason for the people of the United States and soldiers in the military to support the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have the right to self-determination. The U.S./NATO force needs to leave—immediately, unconditionally and completely. It will take a resurgence of the political movement that sprung into action under Bush to make that happen.
We need to stand up, inspire more GIs to resist, and fight back against this war—before Obama reaches his next milestone of death and destruction.