I heard Ted Koppel, on NPR the other morning, say that because we are borrowing all the money from the Chinese to fight the war in Afghanistan that we are not sacrificing anything and therefore do not feel any pain as a result of this war. Huh?
I won’t even go into the huge deficits that “W” spent us into, which the Republicans and Tea Baggers did not seem to notice. But, those folks are screaming about how big that deficit is as a reason for not spending on health care, infrastructure, education, stimulus, and even extending unemployment benefits. I call that sacrificing.
But, setting money aside, for a moment, what has the war in Afghanistan cost us? The figures are not that easy to root out, but I did find this:
Most recent figures show that over 2,000 coalition forces have been killed there. U.S. deaths rose to 1,123. I find this somewhat hard to believe, inasmuch as we have many thousands more military deployed in Afghanistan than the coalition does. Most of those deaths have been this year. Additionally, we had 7,415 soldiers wounded. These figures do not include, I am sure, the number of “private contractors” killed.
Even more telling of the costs of this war is the fact that there were 1,713 known suicide attempts in the military in 2009. Of those 1,713 attempts, 149 were successful. I could not find out how many known attempts there have been this year, but I do know that 160 of them have succeeded in just the first half of this year. These figures do not include those killed by increased risky behavior or how many are contemplating their next attempt.
If we add the financial costs to the deaths and injuries, the cost and sacrifice for this war is outrageous. Fighting in Afghanistan was one of the things that brought down the former USSR. They were there for 10 years and lost 15,000 soldiers and suffered 37,000 casualties. They killed millions of Afghans and were no closer to winning than we are. If we stack up this folly against the state of our current crisis in education, economy, energy, power grid and environment, you just have to ask, “What are we doing over there?” Bob Herbert, at the NYT summed the argument up really well today. I suggest you read it.