The end of ‘Afghanistanism’ in our lifetime; it’s about time


Yes, it is time to get out of our 20-year never-ending war in Afghanistan.

But first, let me tell you a bit about editorial writing, including how the name of this far-off country relates to it.

Three decades ago, when I was a hell-on-wheels editorial writer for a local newspaper, it always seemed important to me to write forceful editorials about local issues. I was rewarded for those efforts by measured changes in my communities, the wrath of various portions of the population, and awards from journalism organizations.

But I stayed away, at all costs, from three other types of editorials. My three gripes were:

Way back then, I abhorred what was called “blind boosterism,” which is over-the-top local promotion of just about anything. This column is not about that.

Another type that I disliked were editorials that I called “thumbsuckers,” where the writer whined about some personal grudge.

The third kind is what used to be called “Afghanistanism.” This was a slur you cast toward some editorial writer who, instead of dealing with local topics, would write stirring missives about happenings around the world. Your local readers, interested only in local affairs, cared very little about this far-away stuff and criticized these editorial writers for straying way far from where they should be focusing their attention.

Afghanistanism?

I am writing about this today in the context that perhaps, finally, our longest war is coming to an end.  President Joe Biden swears he is going to get our troops out of that God-forsaken country by Sept. 11, ironically the 20th anniversary of the greatest attack ever on our country’s shores — the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

In recent years, just about every columnist or editorial writer has written about this crazy never-ending war and, no, it was not writing about some far-away obscure place any more. Afghanistan was a place where thousands of our finest young men and women were making huge sacrifices. And for what?

Within a year of the 9/11 attacks, our forces had blasted that country to bits and pretty much demolished the folks who planned the terrorism. They retreated so far into the hills and their caves that the threat was contained.

But then the U.S. found out what so many countries had found out before it — Afghanistan is an out-of-control mess.  The former USSR found that out and some folks think the folly of Russia’s war in Afghanistan bankrupted their country and led to an end to that country’s status as a superpower.

Afghanistan has been a money pit over and over.  The USA had spent $2 trillion.  And that was back when a trillion bucks was really a trillion bucks!

We lost 2,200 lives and saw 20,000 more of our people injured.  For what? When we leave there, it will revert back to what it was before.  An opium poppy-growing patchwork of tribes and fiefdoms that fight against each other as much as they fight against the outside world. They will practice hideous offenses against women and girls and it will just be awful.   These folks are barbarians.

I will tell you what the definition of insanity is in one word: Afghanistan.   Others define insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Like I said, Afghanistan.

My generation had its own version of this nightmare called Vietnam. Only that war killed 58,148 young American men and women. With a death toll like that, we managed to stop the insanity after just eight years.

Those folks who died in Vietnam were folks my age. My classmate Harlan Bilden never got to see his 20th birthday. Another classmate Larry Halverson was shot up and died later at the age of 57.

I am proud to be friends of Vietnam veterans Pat Schmidt, Bob Spengler, Andy Gramlich and Dan Whetstone.  Some of these guys have COPD from Agent Orange, two were shot, and they all probably have some PTSD from their experiences. These four men appear normal but they carry their wounds. 

Of the 2.7 million American soldiers who served during Vietnam, some 304,000 suffered serious injuries or crippling wounds. Some 75,000 were considered seriously disabled.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois has an incredible and informative wing about the Vietnam War. Well worth the visit.

Getting back to the subject at hand: Should we get out of Afghanistan? Duh.

Biden says we need to concentrate our efforts on Asia and leave the Middle East behind. For once, I agree with him.

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