I had just finished the harrowing account of just how we got Bin Laden in the New Yorker— including a Navy Seal who tackled two people he had reason to believe had suicide bomb vests on to save the rest of his team–when I got the first report of our largest single day death toll in the wars that have dragged for near a decade now. The New York Times reports:
In Afghanistan, insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter on Saturday, killing 30 Americans, including some Navy Seal commandos from the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as 8 Afghans, American and Afghan officials said.
The helicopter, on a night-raid mission in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, to the west of Kabul, was most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, one coalition official said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and they could hardly have found a more valuable target: American officials said that 22 of the dead were Navy Seal commandos, including members of Seal Team 6. Other commandos from that team conducted the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Bin Laden in May. The officials said that those who were killed Saturday were not involved in the Pakistan mission.
Saturday’s attack came during a surge of violence that has accompanied the beginning of a drawdown of American and NATO troops, and it showed how deeply entrenched the insurgency remains.
In all the discussion of the debt ceiling, did anyone discuss the role that our costly wars have played in driving up the deficit? Noble prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has put the true price of our wars at well beyond $3 trillon, when considering not just the direct costs but the impact on the U.S. economy and the cost of caring for the men and woman who have served in these wars after they come home.
But even beyond the numbers, how about the human cost of these wars? I personally went from cheering the amazing courage of the guys dropping into a Pakistan compound, despite having to crash land their helicopter to find Bin Laden–to realizing the utter futility of what we are doing there when men from the very same unit got shot out of the sky yesterday on yet another mission to try to weed out the bad guys.
Perhaps we are engaged in a war on terror that will determine the very future existence of the United States as we know it. Perhaps the attempt, despite looking futile at times, to install democratic institutions in Iraq and the largely illiterate and desperately poor Afghanistan is the only way to preserve American freedom.
But if that is the case, why are our very bravest men still getting shot out of the sky? And why is our country’s debt being downgraded at least in part because of the financial cost of embarking on the wars on terror in the Middle East?
I am a firm believer that the men we ask to fight these wars are heroes–especially those who die and those who come home permanently damaged–and should be treated as such. I am really beginning to wonder, however, about the President who sent us there in the first place and the one who doubled down in Afghanistan.
Haven’t enough good men died already? Isn’t the massive structure employment in our own country (according to Paul Krugman, another Noble prize wining economist, the percentage of the population currently employed currently stands at a very dangerously low 58.2%) that has caused millions to be permanently without work a bigger threat to our national security than terrorism in the near term?
As the massacre in Norway showed us, terrorism is just as likely to come from within as from outside. As our country continues to slide into economic disarray marked by increased despair, we should take a closer look at what might happen within.
–photo Michael Kamber