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Making the Case for Afghanistan

by James Graham III 9 months ago in opinion
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A synopsis of the worst American Foreign Policy disaster since the Shah was disposed in Iran

© Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images People carry the Afghan national flag on Independence Day in Kabul on Aug. 19 amid the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has become the most politically captivating story of the day. Nothing has grasped the attentions of the American people so tightly probably since we watched a mob of rioters storm our nation’s capital. Over the course of this document, I will make the case for Afghanistan. I will give my two cents of what I believe are the failures of the current and previous administrations. The case I will make is not one in support of abandoning thirty million people to the oppressive rule of the Taliban, but rather one of American projectionism and protectionism. But first. Who am I to make these claims or to believe I have any insight into this matter?

My name is James Graham III and my entire adult life, for the last nine years, has been in service to my country. Specifically, as an intelligence analyst first in the Marine Corps and then as a federal government contractor. My experiences have included several intelligence practices such as Electronics Intelligence, Targeting Analyst, Full Motion Video Analytics, Counter Terrorism Operations, and Counter UAS Operations. I would like to be forefront and transparent in saying I have never deployed to Afghanistan. I have never worked or fought alongside the Pashtuns. Instead, Syria and supporting the Kurds has been my regional expertise. But like the Pashtuns, I also watched my country order our forces to abandon the Kurds to be crushed under the combined military might of Russia, Syrian regime forces, and even our supposed “ally,” Turkey. I will use this insight to make comparisons to current events and draw parallels between what I felt about our withdrawal from Syria to what many Afghanistan war veterans are feeling today. Now, and with further ado:

There has been much back peddling by the current administration. The Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, claimed that we would “not see Afghanistan fall from a Friday to a Monday,” just before we ironically witnessed exactly that happen. But I’d like to be careful not to devolve this article into partisan talking points and the childish blame game that is so often the response to tragedy. Instead, I would like to focus on the strategic mistakes and lies that both the current and previous administrations have made.

It begins with President Donald J. Trump. Under his leadership and orders our nation engaged in a secret set of diplomatic meetings with the mission of creating a ceasefire with the Taliban prior to a full withdrawal of US troops. When the deal was agreed upon and made public, then President Trump chimed, “it is time to end America’s forever wars!” Forever wars. The first lie in a multitude of lies to justify abandoning people to murder and oppressive rule. For starters, as Representative of Texas, former Navy SEAL, and Afghanistan War veteran, Dan Crenshaw put it, “there is a lot between forever wars and total withdrawal.” And that is a fact. You can’t even argue against it unless you are willing to lie as the current and previous administrations have chosen to do. No, you need not look far to see alternatives. For example, the United States has maintained over 230 military bases and installations in Europe since the conclusion of World War Two. No wars are currently there to justify that number of bases or the massive financial costs we must burden to maintain that presence. And yet if you looked it would be difficult to find that any of the people who are crying that we must end total presence in Afghanistan, have ever said that we should close our Naval and Marine facilities in Okinawa, Japan. Which have remained occupied for 76 years since Imperial Japan’s surrender and against the local populations wishes.

Another argument you’ll see is, “bring our troops home” and “why should we fight if they won’t?” These two are both politically charged and emotional phrases designed to make those who hear them feel they are betraying our own troops if they disagree. But last time I checked, veterans and active-duty military are not mute individuals. We have a voice and we have spoken. The internet has flooded with anger from venting veterans of how this whole thing has been botched. It was also reflected in a Stars and Stripes poll that showed a whopping 80% of veterans disagreed with withdrawing at all. So why are so many veterans and active-duty military so upset and willing to fight even after we watched that sham of an Afghan military capitulate almost instantly? Because we are just built differently. We are not asking you to fight. There is no draft. We are less than 1% of the population and it takes a special kind of person to enlist in our ranks. 99% of the people who will read this are not built the way we are. We are prepared to fight for what is right. And against who isn’t. It is nothing but an idealistic fairytale to suggest that words can be used to disarm militants that would stone people to death just for loving who they want. As in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his radio flag day address, “We are all of us children of earth—grant us that simple knowledge. If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed. If they hunger, we hunger. If their freedom is taken away, our freedom is not secure. Grant us a common faith that man shall know bread and peace-that he shall know justice and righteousness, freedom and security, an equal opportunity and an equal chance to do his best, not only in our own lands, but throughout the world. And in that faith let us march, toward the clean world our hands can make. Amen."

Amen indeed. Those words are almost scripture to me and so many other veterans. As a Marine – no as a man; as a human being – I was and still am willing to fight and die, not just for my privileged countrymen who express indifference on their newest iPhones with 5G connectivity to the plight and suffering they see, but for the YPG Kurdish fighters too. Still fighting for their own country. For the Pashtun tribes and villages that gave our troops sanctuary. For the Translators that we have left abandoned to be beaten and murdered. Why should America fight when they laid down their own arms? Simply because it is the right thing to do, because we have the capability to do it, and because contrary to what our privileged politicians would argue, a military that, if given the right orders, would proudly charge in to protect innocent life. All it would have taken to prevent this would have been to make Bagram Airbase a permanent facility with a contingent of perhaps just 5,000 troops. Much like our 230+ bases in Europe that no one is complaining about.

America is a global force for good. I know it can be hard to see that sometimes. We are not without flaws. But we have pressed for rights on behalf of women and LGBTQIA+ peoples when no one else would. We have stood up for the little guys before. We have poured money into villages in Africa for clean water and power. We can be a beacon of what it means to have power and use it for good. But for today, we are a rich selfish empire of isolationists. Cowards. Who are perfectly content to watch the world burn and humanity suffer so long as that suffering stays far enough away.

This has been James Graham III. Veteran of wars, but most importantly, human, and this has been my two cents.


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James Graham III

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