None of the usual excuses serve to explain a major foreign policy disaster.
Afghanistan’s Lesson: Reclaim America
Our corrupt elites have stolen the valor of American heroes. Time to take it back.
On the day suicide bombers killed 13 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 18 American veterans died by suicide. On average, suicide claims the lives of that many veterans every day in the United States. If we count together veterans, active-duty troops, guardsmen, and reservists, that number jumps to roughly 20 a day. Our regime, in other words, is responsible for more deaths of more service members than any jihadist attack on American soil.
Is the United States worth dying for? The short answer is no; the long answer is yes. But if you ask Republicans who have shed the populist put-on and reverted to marching beneath the flag of neoconservatism, the answer is always and only yes. Side with them, they say, to save America because President Joe Biden, they cry, has made a mockery of the United States military specifically and its government generally. But Republicans would have no bloody shirt to wave were their palms not stained by the same gore now on Biden’s face. Both parties have created a regime that is not worth the price of blood spilled abroad.
Though they are out of power, for now, it was Republicans who drew us into these wars and refused to get us out of them. They turned September 11 into a cheap catchphrase but attempted to filibuster the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Named after the first New York Police Department officer to die of toxic chemical exposure at Ground Zero, the bill granted $4.3 billion for treatment services and medical benefits for first responders and survivors of 9/11. Republicans, then into the first decade of what would be a $2,000,000,000,000 war, whined about the Zadroga Act’s cost. Democrats, of course, politicized the funding—but the GOP lost the basis for any principled opposition to “Big Government” spending when it signed Americans on to interminable foreign wars marked by corruption and waste.
Then the GOP did it again in 2015. Once again, Democrats politicized the money, and once more, Republicans allowed it to happen. This time, 9/11 survivors surrounded McConnell’s office. “It’s absolutely disgusting that we have to keep on coming back down here and to keep on begging, it’s like we’re beggars,” said Anthony Flammia, a retired police officer who stormed the World Trade Center on September 11.
Finally, in 2019, Donald Trump signed a bill that permanently reauthorized the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. But deaths from 9/11-related diseases have eclipsed the number of Americans killed by terrorists that day—and veteran suicides already had every year from 2005 to 2018, according to Defense Department statistics. In 2020, data from the World Trade Center Health Program placed the number of deaths attributed to a variety of illness related to the attack’s aftermath at 3,496.
The Department of Veterans Affairs graphed the rise and fall of these deaths as we wandered through the distant deserts. Suicides dramatically increased in 2007 during the Iraq War troop surge, when we sent more harbingers of “white rage” to fight for a government that does not care if they die.
Actually, on balance, their deaths, by enemy gunfire or self-inflicted gunshot, are counted as a net good on the regime’s abacus. As one Associated Press headline cheered at 2020 Census data: “US is diversifying, white population shrinking.” Regime lackey Jennifer Rubin hailed the suicides and overdoses of rural whites as “fabulous news,” and propagandist Michael Moore called the day of the Census announcement the “best day ever.”
The regime sent off the sons of Appalachia to die in Afghanistan, chalked up their deaths as victories for diversity, and helped those who have survived to get hooked on poisonous opioids for the chronic pain of their battle wounds. But that was, to be sure, only the guarantee of a slower death, as veterans’ rate of overdose deaths from all opioids increased by 65% from 2010 to 2016.
And while Democrats were elevating the likes of Representative Ilhan Omar, who dismissed 9/11 as the day “some people did something,” conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute took money to lie to the public about the addictiveness of Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ prized opioid, OxyContin, which by 2012 was prescribed to roughly 1 in 3 veterans.
Just last week, members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, received immunity from future opioid lawsuits in a bankruptcy settlement. The Sacklers will keep the bulk of their fortunes made on the genocide of Middle America while AEI continues to rattle the saber of war, even as the national security apparatus is turned on Americans in a hunt for dissidents.
What was it all for? The spread of pedophilia by our Afghan “allies”? Their penchant for raping little boys, often on U.S. military bases, cost concerned American troops their careers when they could not look away. These are the people whose safety the oligarchic ruling class, no matter their party affiliation, seems to have prioritized over Americans.
Was it for the first Gender and Women’s Studies program at Kabul University? “According to an USAID observer,” The Spectator reported, “the gender ideology included in American aid routinely caused rebellions out in the provinces, directly causing the instability America was supposedly fighting.” Did our troops ever see parallels back home between Americans and Afghans when police arrested parents at Virginia school board meetings for rebelling against the ideology of critical race theory? Of course, in Afghanistan, the United States kills children with airstrikes; Democrats and Republicans merely facilitate their chemical castration back home.
And yet, all this, believe it or not, has happened before. “The wild beasts that roam over Italy,” the Roman tribune Tiberius Gracchus would say, “have every one of them a cave or lair to lurk in; but the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy the common air and light, indeed, but nothing else; houseless and homeless they wander about with their wives and children.”
“And it is with lying lips that their imperators exhort the soldiers in their battles to defend sepulchers and shrines from the enemy,” Tiberius concluded, “for not a man of them has an hereditary altar, not one of all these many Romans an ancestral tomb, but they fight and die to support others in wealth and luxury, and though they are styled masters of the world, they have not a single clod of earth that is their own.” These words should sound familiar to Americans who feel alienated by the United States regime and its politicians who make hollow patriotic sounds.
The American people, and the tradition of self-government to which they still cling, remain valiant, admirable, and worth fighting for. But like the Roman veterans who labored under the depredations of their callous elites, Americans are now groaning beneath the heel of heedless, heartless rulers who value nothing so much as their own self-gratification. To reframe the original question: is the regime—the real, not ideal, established political order—worthy of Americans’ love and blood? Not today. But it should—and still could—be.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.