You never leave a man behind.
The last of the 21,000 troops Obama ordered into Afghanistan were still arriving there when General Stanley McChrystal asked Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for 40,000 more. That was in late September.
The request came after McChrystal sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates a war assessment, Aug. 30th, in which he said more troops and a new strategy are needed. Within days, more British, French and American fatalities picked up – their deaths marked by one terrible thing.
It was the day our top U.S. commander in the region called for back-up and the response was – nothing.
I’ll write it again – in case you missed it. “You never leave a man behind.”
Since the end of August, 94 U.S. troops have died in Operation Enduring Freedom., the war against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. But, that is only the part of the cost in human life. In the same timeframe 136 people in our allies’ military forces, have also died. Who is with our boys and girls over there? The list is actually a long one. It includes Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. They’ve all lost at least one person, and the UK and Canada have lost hundreds since the operation started.
But our forces have been hit the hardest with 906 out of 1,492 total deaths.
So what does that mean in the scope of things? Consider this in the simplest terms. This is the war Obama said we took our eye off of – the one he said we need to win. This is the war, which was begun following the terrorist attacks on New York in an attempt to destroy Al Quaida’s ability to project terror projects around the globe.
That is the job we undertook. That is the mission we handed to our commanders and troops. But when we use the word “troops,” we don’t have to consider the real toll. Think about what you are doing right now. Maybe you have a coffee in your hand, reading this article, television blaring in the background with erectile dysfunction advertisements, or deep, soothing voices imploring you to save the planet and go “green.”
Meanwhile President Obama is pictured in brief flickers, striding amongst rows of solar panels and later, in front of the tele-prompters, saying, “We are finally getting Afghan policy right.” Just a week ago he was pictured at a Latino dance and more recently playing basketball and golfing. As if the current situation is somehow anywhere near “right.”
And know this. At this very moment, while you sit there with your coffee and your laptop, and the propaganda machines churn out the global warming ads and congressmen stroll through climate-controlled corridors, someone is in a dirty alleyway far away, their mouth tasting of dust, their skin sunburned and chafed. They are focusing on the moment, but always wondering at the back of their mind, if a shot they never even heard, will send a bullet punching through their body and leave them gasping and possibly laying in the dirt, dying. Their death will happen a world away from the sunlit streets they walked when they were children just five or ten years ago – maybe less. Today will be their last – marked not by what they left behind – but instead by all the things they will never do again.
They will never smile or laugh at a joke. They will never hug the child whose very birth they missed. They will never stand in the aisle at the grocery store, go to the bank or buy that dream car or motorcycle they always wanted. They will never again sit in their living room with loved ones on the holidays. They will never be able to talk to their wife or their husband ever again – or if they aren’t married, they will never get the chance to experience the thrill of love and courtship and marriage.
They will die in that alley, a long way away from you. They will die and you never even knew their name. You never spoke to them. You never even knew anything about them. And they never even got that backup they needed so badly - the backup their commander called for desperately. And maybe while you put your coffee down, you should think about that. Maybe someone should ask President Obama to set his incessant campaigning aside for just a moment and think about that – think about it long enough to actually make a damned decision.
Because, you never leave a man behind.