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GOP Warmongers Still Not Giving Up On Afghanistan

Posted by DownWithTyranny on December 21st, 2011

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Paul Ryan was in Afghanistan 3 times. I was only there twice. He was there for a matter of hours each time. I spent about 6 months there all told. I rode all around the country– first in a VW van and later on horseback. He was a pampered guest of the occupying army command and traveled in a military bubble. I lived with people in their homes and learned Farsi and Pashtun. He knows K Street lobbyists for arms manufacturers who funnel large sums of money into his political career ($77,200 so far).

A few days ago Ryan’s name appeared under an op-ed in the Racine Journal-Times, Prospects for Progress If We Stay the Course. That’s the GOP talking point that’s emerged since Obama extricated us from Bush’s war against Iraq. It comes just after the Senate adopted Jeff Merkley’s amendment calling on Obama to speed up withdrawal. Among the co-sponsors of Merkely’s amendment were extreme right-wing senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). The only opponent willing to stand up and shout into the void was the Senate’s most determined warmonger, John McCain (R-AZ), a man with no constituency inside or outside the Senate. Buck McKeon (R-CA) in the House goes along with McCain, as do Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman in the Senate. Other than that, it’s just Romney and Gingrich gambling that it’s a position that will help win the Republican primary. Apparently Ryan’s still way over in right field as well.

He claims we’re “helping the Afghan people deny safe haven to Islamist extremists, who have in the past made terrorism Afghanistan’s number one export.” Pure propaganda and unrelated to anything actually going on in Afghanistan– like virtually every word of his bullshit op-ed, which he later reprinted as a mailer to his constituents.

In the nearly 10 years since my first visit, the progress Afghanistan has made is inspiring: Women walk unveiled and without fear. Crowded markets and traffic jams indicate slow but real progress. Child mortality has dropped by 25% in the last decade, and there are now 8 million students in school nationwide- – including 2.9 million girls.

To be sure, these gains have come with heavy sacrifices– thousands of Americans have given their lives, and many more have been injured. One way we can honor these sacrifices is by finishing what these brave service members have started.

Make no mistake: The justification for our post-9/11 intervention in Afghanistan remains valid today. If the Taliban and its allies, al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network, regain control of Afghanistan, they would again be able to focus on attacking America instead of fighting for their own survival.

President Obama has announced a U.S. force reduction in Afghanistan, but the timing of this withdrawal seems to be driven more by the 2012 election than by facts on the ground. Today, we have about 96,000 troops in Afghanistan, a number scheduled to decrease to 68,000 by September 2012. As one battalion commander in Helmand Province told me, we’re at the peak of security today, at current troop levels. Any decision on troop levels should be based on security needs– not a campaign-inspired race for the exits.

Furthermore, the September 2012 deadline means that we’ll be conducting a withdrawal in the heart of the fighting season in Afghanistan– right when our remaining forces will need the most support. I heard from troops up and down the chain of command who were hopeful that they would see force levels remain stable through the next fighting season, rather than seeing their combat strength steadily sapped over the course of next year.

Afghanistan will eventually need to be able to defend itself without a U.S. military presence. We can help through the Afghan Local Police program and through Village Stabilization Operations. These programs draw on the unique abilities of our special forces to live in Afghan villages and help communities maintain day-to-day security. By living with the people, these forces build the confidence of the populace and provide a critical link back to invaluable U.S capabilities such as combat air support and medical evacuation. Programs like these hold the promise of an Afghanistan that can one day provide for its own security.

A transition plan is in place for Afghan forces to take control of the country’s security in 2014. Even as we work toward that point, it is important to remember that our nation’s commitment to Afghanistan isn’t likely to end there. Our nation’s troops and resources will continue to support the Afghan people for years to come– not to engage in nation-building, but to mitigate the risk posed by the region’s extremists to our own national security.

I remain confident that we can achieve our goal in Afghanistan if we have the political will and strategic patience to finish the job. Anything less would be a betrayal of those who have lost their lives in the cause of Afghanistan’s freedom, not to mention the safety and security of the American people.

This junk from the man who would take away long-term medical care from soldiers wounded and disabled fighting the wars that give him a woody. And for all the happy talk from Republicans and other conservatives, this occupation is going miserably for everyone concerned except the arms merchants.

Despite official assertions of progress in Afghanistan, American battle casualties remain stubbornly high, and the severity of the physical and psychological wounds suffered by young Americans is actually increasing.

So far this year, more than 5,000 American troops have been wounded — about one third of all those injured in Afghanistan since 2001.

… Despite a $22.4 billion Pentagon effort over the past six years, these improvised explosive devices remain the biggest single cause of American casualties, killing or wounding more than 34,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Defense Department data.

In Afghanistan this year, IED attacks are up 7 percent over last year, according to the U.S.-led command in Kabul.

The damage they cause is unrelenting. Among the 96,000 American troops fighting in Afghanistan, amputations are at an all-time high, as are the serious medical side effects of severe trauma.

The number of returning servicemen and women officially diagnosed with traumatic brain injury has leaped to an average of 647 new cases a month, up from a monthly average of 621 cases in 2010 and 482 a month in 2009, according to Defense Department data. Over the past decade, the Defense Department has diagnosed 229,106 service members with traumatic brain injury.

Military surgeons this year recorded a monthly average of 19.6 cases of amputations, up from 16.3 per month in 2010 and 7.3 per month in 2009.

These injuries are mostly caused by IED detonations, which have also resulted in a sharp rise in genital wounds. One out of five of the wounded evacuated from Afghanistan last year suffered from what the Army calls “genitourinary” injuries. Military medical officials say the numbers are increasing, but a spokeswoman for the U.S. military medical center in Landstuhl, Germany, which handles most evacuees, said she could not provide fresher numbers.

The U.S. military also tracks two other indicators of severe injury, and both have risen significantly this year. One is uncontrolled bone growth near the site of a wound, a painful condition called heterotopic ossification. Among deployed troops, cases of heterotopic ossification have reached 10.8 cases a month, compared to 7.3 in 2010 and 5.3 in 2009, the Defense Department reported.

The other post-trauma condition is deep vein thrombosis. These cases rose from 18.8 in 2009 to 20.4 in 2010, to 20.5 per month this year.

A U.S. Army study released last summer detailed the increasing severity of battle wounds suffered by troops in Afghanistan. The report said that the number and severity of these wounds, which include the traumatic amputation of two, three or all four limbs, exceeds anything experienced during the Iraq war.

Ryan’s mindless pap could have been written by any politician about any war he’s being paid off to support. There’s nothing honest or thoughtful in his whole prepackaged statement, and nothing in it that takes any kind of reality into account about how these wounded vets are going to live in the future. It’s tragic this this is all that’s expected from America’s political leaders. Isn’t Ryan still of age, so that the military would accept him?

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