My Point of View: What has been learned from the war in Afghanistan?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It’s a bitter irony of the U.S. war in Afghanistan that many of the last American soldiers to die in the conflict were infants when it began.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Hopefully we have learned something valuable from nearly 20 years of this treasury-draining endeavor. Niccolo Machiavelli’s observation, “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please,” gave leaders no pause in the panicked, vengeful aftermath of the 9/11 attacks carried out by Al Qaeda.

The loneliness of Barbara Lee as the sole member of Congress to vote against authorization of the use of force in Afghanistan was a vacuum-of-space level of loneliness I felt too. The war industry smelled paydirt, and it was feted by millions of stunned Americans waving flags while conglomerated media outlets beat a drum for war, coverage, ratings.

There was no oxygen for critical questions in that atmosphere. We signed a blank check and wrote “United We Stand” on the memo line.

An astute anti-war friend told my future husband on the day of the attacks that George W. Bush would take us to war with Iraq. My husband thought his friend had misunderstood who was responsible for the hijackings, but his friend was proven right just 18 months later.

Yes, it only took 18 months to start a second front, on (false) pretenses of weapons of mass destruction.

Letting our limbic systems make decisions amidst the lingering smoke of 9/11 cost many Americans their limbs, tranquility and lives. The Military Times reported in June that over 7,000 soldiers died while deployed, and an estimated 31,000 “Global War on Terror” veterans have committed suicide, a higher rate than nonveterans.

Predictably, our congressman Jim Hagedorn latched on to the deadly Kabul airport attack in late August without a speck of nuance. He lacks capacity for dignity like President Biden displayed in mourning the dead.

If there is anything Biden does particularly well, it is consolation, through his own personal deep grief as a father who mourns his dead children.

Hagedorn’s play to turn the horrifying last page of a failed war that spanned a generation and four presidencies into a cheap attack on President Biden is indicative of his shallow politics. He shows no promise of ever being more than an inch deep.

As the Afghanistan Papers exposé by the Washington Post in 2019 revealed, the U.S. government knew the war was a failure and the Afghan government would collapse to the Taliban if the U.S. pulled out. No one wanted the inevitable public relations disaster, despite the cost of the continuing occupation.

Now the withdrawal has finally happened. Biden deserves his share of responsibility for what transpired, more from his eight years as vice president than from his seven months as president.

People who are wringing their hands about women’s and girls’ fate at the hands of the Taliban but who support the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in Texas’s law banning abortions at six weeks can take a seat. These are not modern values. These are tribal values from when women were treated as property rather than as individuals.

Our state representative supports these retrograde laws. Rep. Peggy Bennett has repeatedly pushed a similar so-called “heartbeat” abortion bill in our state.

First, the concept of a fetal heartbeat at six weeks is a lie. There is no heartbeat, nor is there a fetus, at six weeks. There is a fertilized embryo with detectable electrical activity in cardiac tissue that could potentially become a heart.

Second, many women do not realize they are pregnant by this stage. If they are fortunate to have a regular menstrual cycle, their period is only two weeks late by this point.

Third, there is no exception for rape or incest. The emotional violence of forced birth added to forced impregnation is a dystopian nightmare.

We have a state representative who is anti-female to a profound degree. Even Rep. Hagedorn hasn’t signed on to a similar bill in the U.S. House.

It’s not the Taliban threatening to take over in this country, it’s rightwing Christian extremism.

Albert Lea has so many things going for it — beautiful lakes, a growing population and potential to take advantage of the shift to working from home. A larger professional base could spur more opportunities and hopefully lead to open-minded, forward-thinking representation in the future.

Woman-controlling extremism, even when delivered with a soothing teacher voice, may not make the grade much longer. Access to free, effective contraception reduces abortions the most.

Democrats are for reproductive health care, wanted pregnancies, paid family leave and child care subsidies. That is why Democrats are the pro-life, make-life-better-for-parents party in practice.

Nevertheless, we all need to be better at preventing anyone’s babies from becoming cannon fodder in quagmires.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.