Handelman: Let's put an end to our endless wars
As an organization that took part in protests against the Afghan war before it began in 2001, we wish we shared the Portland Tribune editorial board's advice to celebrate the end of two decades of war.
While President Biden followed through on former President Donald Trump's pledge to pull out U.S. troops, the war has not ended. The U.S. has stated their intent to continue airstrikes from over-the-horizon positions, a tactic used during the pullout with disastrous consequences.
Guantanamo Bay prison, created in January 2002, remains open with 39 prisoners, many who have been cleared for release. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force intended to target Al Qaeda in Afghanistan remains in place and was used to justify U.S. military actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. A separate 2002 use-of-force authorization to attack Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was repealed by the U.S. House this summer, but not yet in the Senate.
These wars are estimated to have killed more than 7,000 Americans and at least 660,000 people elsewhere. Brown University's Costs of War project estimates America's financial cost including weaponry, military personnel, veteran care and spying infrastructure is more than $8 trillion.
The U.S. does not intend to alert the Taliban to future drone strikes in Afghanistan. After an attack on the Kabul airport during the August evacuation, a U.S. drone strike killed 10 civilians, including several children and a man associated with a U.S. nonprofit. The U.S. admitted no militants were killed.
Future struggles will emerge over China's interest in the estimated $1 trillion in minerals under Afghan soil. President Biden stated that troops leaving Afghanistan would be repositioned for potential war with China.
President Biden's stated desire to bring a close to the endless wars is admirable. However, his threat after the airport attack to "hunt you down and make you pay" are not the words of a man of peace.
Congress tried to get President Trump to end support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Of eight vetoes, Trump used three to overturn those efforts.
Congress put a provision in the 2021-22 spending bill to end support for the Saudi war. That does not stop the U.S. drone strikes which began in 2004, 344 of which killed at least 209 civilians in Yemen. While strikes in Pakistan and Libya apparently stopped in 2017 and 2019 respectively, Biden and Trump each led strikes in Somalia six times in 2021, and the U.S. launched a strike in Syria as recently as September. About 900 U.S. troops remain on the ground in Syria.
When referring to Afghanistan as "America's longest war," people ignore the war against Native Americans that began before the U.S. was a nation and continued into the early 20th century and beyond. The Korean War, which started in 1950, led to an armistice in July 1953, but no peace treaty has emerged to end that war. The war against Iraq began when the U.S. imposed sanctions in August 1990, bombed in 1991 and continued both of those strategies until the invasion in 2003. Thirty-one years later, 2,500 American troops are still in Iraq.
It is unthinkable to spend money on war instead of human needs in this time of crisis. Now is time to end state-sponsored violence perpetuated by our country.
Dan Handelman of Portland is with the nonprofit Peace and Justice Works.
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