When is the last time any of the four candidates visited Walter Reed Medical Center in suburban Washington? If they did it in recent months, I haven’t seen any press coverage of it. We go. Barbara is involved in a Marine parents group that brings burritos, sweets, fresh fruit, and drinks on Sundays to the wounded and their families and helps family members cope with the medical bureaucracy and the many opportunities this area offers. I’m sorry to tell you that the intensive care unit is very active. There are lots of wounded warriors out there, flown in from Afghanistan, whence we are in full retreat.
Aside from the military, and military families, nobody seems to care. I quite understand why the Obama people want it to be that way — it’s not helpful to the reelection effort — but it’s not at all pleasant to try to understand why the Republicans and the journalists are complicit in the great silence that envelops the sacrifice of the best Americans of this generation. Yes, there have been stories about American soldiers assassinated by Afghans they were training, and every now and then we hear about the extraordinary level of mayhem in Iraq, but I search in vain for serious, sustained reports on what is going on, and why, and what it means. Andrew Malcolm is one of the very few who hears the silence.
What is going on?
We are in full retreat, and our enemies are blowing up our guys, and our would-be friends and allies. That’s inevitable, because our enemies want to win and our commander-in-chief wants to retreat. You don’t have to be a grand strategist to understand this. Our youngest child is a Marine lieutenant who recently returned, along with 1,500 of his comrades, from a forward operating base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During his eight-month deployment, there were no casualties. Not one, not even due to an accident. Much of his time was spent organizing the retreat, and today there are roughly 150 Marines where there used to be 1,500. And there are casualties, because the 150 Marines are under attack. The Taliban, who had learned that it’s not attractive to challenge a significant group of Marines, feel a lot better about attacking a significantly smaller number of them. And the locals, who had learned that it’s a very good thing to work with the Marine Corps, now see that the Marines are retreating and the Taliban are returning. The Taliban have a much easier time enlisting the locals’ support.
If you were an Afghan, you’d cooperate with your soon-to-be rulers, too, wouldn’t you?
And so violence mounts, and the ICU at Bethesda Naval fills up. Iraq provides the template: we left, the terrorists returned, and the morgues and hospitals fill up. The locals cooperate with the terrorists. The only “good news” is that the Iraqi casualties are Iraqis. There is similar “good news” from Syria: it’s Syrians that are being slaughtered, not Americans, and there are many, altogether too many, Americans who take comfort from that “good news,” and want to keep it that way. They don’t care very much about Syrians or Iraqis.
But they don’t care very much about Americans either. If they did, they’d be demanding that we take out all the American troops now, rather than diminishing their numbers slowly until the 2014 “final withdrawal” date our leaders have announced. They’d say what military moms and dads say: if we’re going to fight, so be it. But if we’re retreating, then why are you leaving — as at that FOB in Helmand — one-tenth of our guys to endure the inevitable slaughter our enemies are so eager to inflict on us? And they would point out, as the aforementioned Mr. Malcolm does, that “We’ve had 100,000 troops fighting and dying and bleeding in Afghanistan. About 2,000 Americans have perished there since 9/11….It took 108 months for those U.S. fatalities to reach 1,000. It’s taken only 27 months under Iraq-war opponent Obama to surpass 2,000 deaths.”