The names and faces of the dead stare back at me: Ahlquist, Allen, Armijo. I keep reading: Bowles, Browning, Burnett. Then it really hits me: These brave men and women had vibrant and successful lives here in Arizona, and now they are gone forever. According to AZ Central, these are the casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the year 2003 to 2009, all from the state of Arizona.
Afghanistan is now in the midst of its third set of elections since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that sent these brave heroes over to the country in the first place. These elections are the Afghans’ way of showing their appreciation for the sacrifice that these 16 patriots from Arizona have made. American blood was spilled so that the Afghan people could vote freely for their own national leader just as we do in Arizona; ordinary Americans with extraordinary bravery died so that ordinary Afghans could enjoy the same freedoms and liberties that we have here. They died in the service of the U.S. by serving the interests of democracy.
But despite their sacrifice (or because of it), there are many in Congress, as polled by ABC News, who say that the war in Afghanistan is unnecessary and “not…worth fighting,” and that we are wasting American lives in a faraway place with no significance to American interests. This is a deplorable way to think. Would they like to tell that to the Afghan people, who relied on the protection of American troops to help them to vote and remain “undeterred by the threat of violence by the Taliban and poor weather,” as ?
If those who want to withdraw from Afghanistan would like to see how their isolationist plan would turn out, I would ask them to look a little bit west of Afghanistan, to a country called Iraq. A group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham has sprung up there, using military force and brutal terrorist attacks to threaten democracy and freedom within Iraq. Although ISIS is being pushed back, it is only due to U.S. support for Iraqi and Kurdish troops on the ground. According to a report by the news outlet RT, ISIS was only able to come to prominence after “the outbreak of hostilities following the American withdrawal in 2011.”
So why is all of this information about Iraq and ISIS important to Afghanistan? Because ISIS is just another version of the Taliban, which has been oppressing the Afghan people for over 10 years now. Both of these groups are insurgencies started because of U.S. intervention and are working to make democracy impossible in the places they operate; both groups have an extremist view of Islam (and I mean extreme); and both commit heinous and despicable atrocities and massacres to demonstrate their “power.” If that is the type of group that will rebound in Afghanistan should the U.S. leave, I shudder for the Afghan people.
Afghanistan deserves a chance at success, just like our country did after we declared our independence. Democracy is messy in a young republic, and we must persevere. So I call for action by ASU students, since we have a very personal stake in this: Pat Tillman, one of our own, was on that list I was reading. Make your voice heard in any way you know how.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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