Thomas Weiner: Columnist’s take on Afghanistan on the mark

  • This July 2, 2009, photo shows Josh Habib, far left, a 53-year-old translator for the U.S. Marines, speaking with Afghan villagers and two Marines in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province. AP

Published: 8/16/2021 3:24:25 PM

I very much appreciated, as I have many of his previous columns, Joe Gannon’s Aug. 12 column, “As we did in Vietnam, we now repeat in Afghanistan.” I would like to add a few additional points to the ones he convincingly and tragically made.

First is the fact that from the Mexican War to the war in Afghanistan, our country has sought to be an empire, and in almost all instances where this involved conquest (i.e. Hawaii, the Philippines, Vietnam, etc…), the reasons to enter into war were predicated on deceiving the American people. Whether it was obfuscating the threats posed by Mexico, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, blaming the Vietnamese in the fabricated Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the big lie about the threat of weapons of mass destruction, falsehoods were used to manipulate those who were susceptible to them.

Thankfully many have not fallen for the deception, but not enough to prevent what occurred. Gannon was spot on as regards the demonization of the enemy, which was most assuredly true with the Vietnam War and sadly, the Taliban’s horrific human rights violations made that easy in Afghanistan.

I couldn’t agree more with his analysis of why the draft was jettisoned in favor of an all-volunteer army. In my book “Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft,” as well as Peter Snoad’s play, “The Draft,” based on the book, the impact of the draft on those I interviewed and on the nation, was such that in order to continue wars of empire, the military had to be able to count on those who needed to serve (i.e. “the poor people’s draft”) to volunteer. This enabled the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as Gannon puts forth.

Gannon’s biggest point, comparing Vietnam and Afghanistan as America exits another debacle of its own creation, is the most devastating, as were the series of essays in Marilyn Young’s and Lloyd Gardner’s “Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or How Not to Learn from the Past.”

Finally, there is Jared Yates Sexton’s 2020 book, “American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People,” which brilliantly delineates the many instances of our nation asserting its power and influence in ways that undermine our democracy.

Thomas Weiner


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