It was a simple photo of two people caught in a moment of joy. I know you’ve seen it before as it is one of the most famous photographs ever taken. The photographer captured the moment that a sailor in Times Square, took a nurse in his arms and planted a celebratory kiss on her lips. Around them were thousands of people celebrating. The end of world war 2 had finally arrived. Those who had survived humanities darkest hour could finally rejoice. In the weeks to come there would be thousands of happy homecomings, but there would also be in some cases the realization that a cherished loved one would not return. Politicians wanting to bask in the reflected glory of returning war heroes, would organize parades and rallies. Our armed forces had fought a righteous war against evil dictators, so the least we could do for them is have a parade. There were parades big and small, from the ticker tape parades in New York city to the humble affairs in tiny towns across America. For reasons unknown to me, parades have always been the way we celebrate military victories. They give the citizens closure to a time of strife and signal the start of returning to a life of normality. The war for independence, the war of 1812, the civil war, world wars 1 and 2, and the persian gulf war all ended with a parade. I realize that following the civil war, only the North held parades, while in the South soldiers limped home if they had a home left. Parades are the luxury of the victor, not the vanquished. There have only been three wars that America has not celebrated with parades. The first was the Korean war, then Vietnam, followed by the war in Iraq. Do you see the trend?
Today was the end of the war in Afghanistan, Americas longest war. The last Marines stationed there, left their bases to the Afghan army today. Were you aware of that? I would not have known if not for watching a foreign news broadcast. On American news channels it wasn’t the lead story, it wasn’t the second, or the third. Had we achieved total victory over the Taliban, and their Al Qaeda allies it would have been the only story on the news.
The politicians that we elected told us that the military would destroy all terrorists and their allies. What they didn’t tell us is that this would be a painfully long war, dictated by people who were more concerned about political correctness than ending terrorism. It would be a war where lawyers and journalists outnumbered the riflemen of the infantry. They were there to accuse, convict, and crucify those we sent into harms way to satisfy the need for political correctness. The journalists demanded humane treatment for terrorists, and the Afghan civilians that assisted them. When an American service member did something wrong, those same journalists crawled over each other to demand that they be locked up and the key thrown away. The JAG, and public affairs officers jumped in front of the cameras, and microphones to see to it that they were judged harshly. The appetite for political correctness had to be satisfied without regard to justice.
In every war there must be a winner and a loser. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the first wars where those who were sent into battle were essentially forbidden to win the war. They were not allowed to take every rational step necessary to eliminate the enemy, and protect themselves in the process. The Taliban could fight this war in any manner they saw fit. Meanwhile the Americans were hindered by ridiculous rules of engagement, and a hopelessly flawed strategy. The politicians lacking the backbone to get any blood on their hands did not give the military the manpower, and arms necessary to overwhelm the enemy and destroy him with maximum efficiency. The strongest nation in history dictated the terms of its own defeat to a group of uneducated, unskilled, medieval horsemen with outdated weapons. We could have exterminated the Taliban in less than a month with no American casualties. Instead we decided to fight a war with our arms tied behind our backs, or should I say we tied the arms of those who actually did the fighting. We lost the war in Vietnam using a flawed military strategy that required the fighters to attack the enemy then withdraw to a firebase. The next day our fighting men would have to fight all over again for the ground they had held the day before but subsequently surrendered because that was the chosen tactic. Every successful military campaign has required the military to deprive the enemy of territory to operate within. We learned nothing from those successes, or the failures of Vietnam. We did not learn from history so we were doomed to repeat it……We lost, again.
To the brave men and women of our armed forces who won every battle, I salute your courage and commitment. The end result was not your fault, it was and is our fault. We elected the politicians who demanded this defeat. We the people are the one who will reward those same politicians with reelection so long as they promise to tell us what we want to hear. We sent you to fight the Taliban, but we forbade you the right to destroy the Taliban. In the process we lost 2,210 service members killed in action, thousands more injured. In a sadly predictable fashion, the horrors of war will lead many of you seek help to silence the demons. Your cries for help will be ignored and the war will take your life years after the rest of us have declared the war over. Some of us will feel a sense of guilt but those killed were your brothers and sisters in arms. Their loss will be particularly stinging to you. I lack the words to tell you how truly sorry I am for what has been done for you.
The last combat troops left Afghanistan today, and so begins the longest battle of that war. For America, football and the World Series were the important issues today. Lost amongst the cheering for touchdowns and home runs was the end of the longest war in American history. It seems like nobody noticed. There should have been a parade today.