“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” I was a twenty year old collegian when I heard those words from President Kennedy in 1961, and I was proud and thrilled to be an American when I heard it. I was also, I think, mistaken and sadly naïve.
Kennedy used those stirring words to justify the growing American military involvement in Vietnam where the survival and liberty of Americans at home were not threatened, and President Johnson continued to use that same argument as we sank into the quicksand of that far off land until we finally abandoned the effort entirely in 1975. Our fundamental problem there was the belief that imperialism was an acceptable basis for foreign policy and that it was perfectly legitimate for our nation to establish hegemony over other people in any manner possible, even militarily.
What did we learn from that experience? Apparently nothing because as I write this it is the eighth anniversary of the American invasion of Afghanistan, where nearly 900 young Americans have died so far, along with the many more lost in Iraq in the last six years and thousands physically and mentally shattered in both wars. Beyond that are the massive numbers of Afghans, Pakistanis, and Iraqis killed in our quest for hegemony.
Now President Obama is trying to decide whether he should send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Secretary of State Clinton apparently favors sending even more than that, and Vice President Biden would have fewer troops but escalate the use of drones and rockets in Pakistan, bringing even more hatred to our nation while killing from on high. They would do this despite having no money to pay for it, no clearly explained reason for it, no agreement on just whom the enemy actually is, and no explanation of how we would ever know when we won so we could all go home again! There is also the unstated premise that we belong there in the first place, that shedding the blood of young Americans and that of countless other people’s blood to extend American dominion over others is actually a good thing.
Does putting Americans in harm’s way in Afghanistan “assure the survival and the success of liberty” for Americans at home? Of course not. This is a watershed moment in American history, and it appears President Obama intends to slide us into another Vietnam. He probably won’t remove existing troops and will more likely add some soon, and Vietnam will be repeated once again. We must voice our opposition loudly and now. Those of you who remember the movie “Network” will recall that Howard Beale stuck his head out a window and screamed, “I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” Please write or call your congressman, your senator, and especially President Obama. One way to write the president is to flood him with emails at this address: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/. Let our voices for peace be heard as we ponder the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
P&J Midwest Regional Director