Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I was watching a four minute video clip of a few American infantry men in the mountains of Afghanistan struggling as they carried about 120 pounds of equipment in on their backs, helmets, and arms. In 1969, as an infantryman, I carried about 60 pounds of equipment in the field.

The Afghanistan video clip was taken with a hand held cam. As I watched everything blurred, and the sudden sound of explosives, automatic weapons, and screams, punched my eyes, ears, and body. The screen went black, and dead quiet. The next brief images were of a dead Taliban fighter, and a dying American infantryman. The American soldier's 120 pound pack was awkwardly attached to his lifeless body, as if it has no reason to be there.

President Obama will soon make the most important decision of his presidency. Most important because it will effect the lives of untold American soldiers and their families;  young men will die, be horribly maimed for the rest of their lives, and carry the psychological scars of war until the day they finally die many years from now as the twenty-first century nears its end. We will spend billions in a war effort that this country can ill afford. This excludes the future cost of veterans care, and the refitting of our armed forces, ground down by over seven years of war.

The over-arching questions regarding the continuation of the American war in Iraq, and a continuance and/or further escalation of our war in Afghanistan are several. What are we now attempting to accomplish in the two countries? What price do we have to pay in human lives? What has been the human toll in Iraq and Afghanistan to date? What are the probable outcomes of our misbegotten war in Iraq, and what does further combat portend for the US and the Afghani people?

According to the latest figures available from the Department of Defense [DoD], we have suffered 4349 dead and 31,527 wounded in Iraq. Iraqi civilian deaths as of 1 September 2009 were 102,371. That is a firm number and leaves out Iraqi military and police deaths. There are few reliable sources for estimates of total Iraqi dead and wounded since our invasion on 20 March 2003.

US and NATO military operations began in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001. The most recent figures released by the DoD list 872 American troops dead, and 3321 wounded.

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