ANCIENT HISTORY

Something about the name "Memorial Day" makes one think of the past – most likely the fact that it has the same latin root as "memory". Every year on Memorial Day we're encouraged to take a minute to remember the people who have died in the line of duty in the military. Inevitably this takes us back to grainy black and white pictures of Dad or Granddad in their World War II uniforms, or maybe Uncle So and So who fought in Vietnam. Lord knows the cable networks will be loaded to the gunwales with World War II themed programming marathons to help nudge you in that direction.

From the Associated Press three days ago:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine NATO service members were killed Thursday in Afghanistan, including seven U.S. troops among eight who died when a powerful bomb exploded in a field where they were patrolling on foot, officials said.

Two Afghan policemen also died and two others were wounded in the explosion in the mountainous Shorabak district of Kandahar province, 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Pakistan border, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, chief of the Afghan border police in the province. "Two months ago, we cleared this area of terrorists, but still they are active there," Raziq said.

(snip)

Roadside bombs killed 268 American troops in Afghanistan last year, a 60 percent increase over the previous year, even as the Pentagon employed new measures to counter the Taliban's makeshift weapon of choice. Defense officials attributed the rise in casualties to the surge in U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year.

The number of U.S. troops wounded by what the military terms improvised explosive devices also soared, according to the most recent U.S. defense figures. There were 3,366 U.S. service members injured in IED blasts – up from the 1,211 hurt by the militants' crudely made bombs in 2009, the figures show.

Despite the fact that the death of Bin Laden pushed it even further out of sight and out of mind, the ongoing wars in the Middle East (soon to celebrate their tenth anniversary) are producing more casualties every day. Today. Currently. Right now. Sure, it's great that we all remember Granddad on Memorial Day, but take a few minutes today to think about the people who are being added to the rolls of the dead and wounded as we're sitting around the grill or pool.

These are current events. That we prefer to think of it solely as a historical phenomenon is part of the reason that it continues with no end in sight.

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23 Responses to “ANCIENT HISTORY”

  1. wetcasements Says:

    Amen.

    And it didn't take a genius to foresee that Obama wouldn't use the death of ObL to expedite withdrawls from either Afghanistan or Iraq. Hate to say it but on foreign policy it's hard to see a differrence between him and Bush. He's certainly smarter and more competent, but he's also basically a neo-con.

  2. eau Says:

    Can one second an Amen?

    But on the withdrawal thang – one of the many (manymanymanymany) reasons for not going into Iraq & Afghanistan in the first place was that anyone with two brain cells to rub together could see that once in, there was never going to be any way back out.

  3. Middle Seaman Says:

    It doesn't take a genius to realize that we all love wars, adore them and start them at a drop of a hat. Memorial Day is just lip service for the nonexistent will to have peace and nonviolence.

  4. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'll see that "Amen" and raise you another one!

    And there is no good reason for us to still be in Afghanistan.
    Except the most important reason of all – war profits.
    Somewhere, someone is making cash off of this.
    And you can take that to the bank.
    Sad…

  5. anotherbozo Says:

    The tail continues to wag the dog.

    Until the dog gets dizzy enough? I hate to repeat clichés, but: to a hammer everything looks like a nail. Since at least the Cold War (but really since McKinley) we've been a military machine and totally out of control.

    Our new levels of poverty even fuel military recruitment. It's all so perfect.

    Gore Vidal's book, called something like "Perpetual War?"

    Hail and amen.

  6. Ivan Ivanovich Renko Says:

    Not quite. I don't see Obama invading Libya and telling us that war would pay for itself through. And it has been quite a while since there's been an American casualty in Iraq.

    That said– yeah, would that Mr. Obama had announced, "Ding dong, that bearded bastard is dead, and we're going to begin troop withdrawals tomorrow."

    I differ with him on this policy; but he's still morally and ethically head and shoulders above George "Grand Theft Petro" Bush.

  7. Neal Deesit Says:

    "once in, there was never going to be any way back out."

    To the architects of these fiascoes, that was a feature, not a bug. That, and the oil, were the real reason for going in.

  8. oxus Says:

    In response to the withdraw-now crowd, here are some alternative view to the "Obama is the same as Bush and America won't end the war in Afghanistan because it loves war" meme for why immediate withdrawal did not occur after the killing in Abbotabod.

    Regardless of any exogenous factors, we will have troops in Afghanistan through the Afghan presidential elections of 2014. Serious withdrawal will only occur once a transition from the Karzai presidency has begun.

    However, for the past six months or so there has been increasing support for seeking a "political" as opposed to "military" end to the war. This would involve high-level negotiations with the (somewhat mythical) moderate Taliban. Talking and negotiating with the Taliban is complicated both by the organization's/movement's lack of internal consistency (it is hard to speak of a single Taliban now, it is a fragmented group divided by things like generation and region) and by the fact that many domestic interests are dead-set against such talks. So these negotiations will be slow going. However, pressure and support for these talks has increased since Bin Ladin's death.

    Still, in any negotiation you want to play up your strengths, so troops will need to be on the ground before and during any discussions.

  9. oxus Says:

    @ Neal Deesit. I hear people state this sometimes, but I am confused…

    How the hell did oil have anything to do with the war in Afghanistan? Because of the long-dormant/dead UNOCAL plan? I don't get it.

    Whenever I read this kind of statement I assume the person has no idea what the hell they are talking about- but perhaps I am missing something or some grand conspiracy. Can you enlighten me?

  10. Xynzee Says:

    You failed to mention when Memorial Day started. WW-II was merely the logical extension of tying up the loose ends of WW-I — WW-II was the last war when one could *vaguely* (note emphasis of vaguely) claim a moral high ground. WW-I put paid to an entire generation. How bad was it? During WW-II an NZ general received orders from British High Command, he looked at the orders, looked the situation, wrote one word and sent that back to High Command. He never heard back. That word was Passchendaele. At Gallipoli, a VC was awarded for the shooting of two men for cowardice (ie what I'd probably do after I wet myself).
    Yes we should remember those who died needlessly, of course the point of remembering is to *not* do that again.

    I always wondered why a career dickhead was SoD, and not Powell. Especially when Powell headed up a commision to avoid another fiasco like Nam. Cap'n *Cock*-up did everything against the Powell report. 1) go in w 2.5x the troop strength you think you need 2) *Exit* Strategy.
    For Iraq the troop numbers = 550,000 bodies. As for Exit Strategies, we know how that's turned out.

  11. Major Kong Says:

    Americans don't generally study World War One. We should.

    "Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word." – German officer Friedrich Steinbrecher

  12. Xynzee Says:

    @Oxus: Afghanistan is truly a weird place, and historically so. Everywhere else in the world there is some kind of… er… for lack of a better word "rational". I wonder if Adam Smith had gone to Afghanistan he'd probably have rethought his assumptions.
    Most of the time (especially in the Mid-East and East Asia) family is everything. Not so in Afghanistan. Brother against brother, nephews Vs great uncle. And that's applicable to today only.
    This shifting landscape dates back to the Persians, and if the soviets who didn't worry about public opinion had their asses kicked, what chance do we have?

  13. oxus Says:

    @ Xynzee
    Two things: Your reading of Afghan society is truly odd. Family/Kinship is damn important. As are other formers of local solidarity networks- especially "qawms"- which are flexible networks that can be based on all sorts of connections (residence, blood, type of work, etc). Although the media has often portrayed Afghanistan as a land of irrational primordial fundamentalists, the actors on the ground are often nakedly rational.

    Second, there is an argument to be made that we could do a lot worse than follow the example of the Soviets when we finally withdraw. After all, they left behind a stable rentier regime that would have lasted beyond 1992 had its main patron not imploded.

  14. Da Moose Says:

    The reason that we are in the ME fighting is because of WWII. It's extremely ironic because the WWII guys fought supposedly so that we wouldn't have to fight again. The assholes that missed out on the glory of WWII have been trying to reenact that glory ever since. WWII was the greatest and worst thing that ever happened to this country. When the memory of WWII starts to fade, the need to fight pointless wars will also fade.

  15. doug Says:

    Da Moose. one question. Will it fade before or after memories of our Civil War?

  16. Da Moose Says:

    No one wants to reenact the Civil war using real bullets…. at least no yet.

  17. Bill Murray Says:

    And it has been quite a while since there's been an American casualty in Iraq.

    I guess I don't think May 22 is that long ago, and their have been 24 deaths this year according to http://icasualties.org/. i don't know if these count our mercenaries or not

  18. Andrew K. Says:

    What is the point of having a Memorial Day without adding more names to be remembered the next Memorial Day?

  19. piperspace Says:

    @anotherbozo "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace" — I remember reading it at the start of W's war of choice. Maybe it's time for a reread.

  20. wetcasements Says:

    "for the past six months or so"

    Hi Mr. Friedman!

  21. Xynzee Says:

    @Oxus: ADF data cartographers trying to help find an internal socio-political solution so we can get out w/o leaving behind a bigger chaotic mess than we created, Afghan refugees (soviet era and current), a brother who's been there multiple times…

    @Kong: very true. I didn't know that Iraq was also a theatre during WW-I until a couple of years ago.

  22. eau Says:

    @Neal – "To the architects of these fiascoes, that was a feature, not a bug. That, and the oil, were the real reason for going in."

    Agreed. But fuck those guys. Fuck them right in the ear. I was thinking more of the flag-wavers and Very Serious Thinkers (I'm looking at you , Hitchens) who were convinced by Rummy & co.'s bullshit.

  23. oxus Says:

    @wetcasements

    I am not certain what you are accusing me of- I never quoted any taxi cab driver- but if you don't believe me, here are some links to recent policy reports/statements written and distributed over the past "six months or so". The first link is to an open letter written this past winter (I believe in December). The other two links are to more recent reports. I could provide more links if you wish.

    http://www.afghanistancalltoreason.com/An_Open_Letter_to_President_Obama/To_the_President_of_the_United_States_.html

    http://www.cic.nyu.edu/afghanistan/docs/gregg_sep_tal_alqaeda.pdf

    http://tcf.org/publications/pdfs/afghanistan-negotiating-peace/AfghanTCFTaskForce%20BookComplete.pdf

    I showed you mine, now let me see the sources behind your claim that Obama is a neo-con.