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One of the most unconscionably stupid justifications I have ever heard for the U.S. continuing the futile war in Afghanistan was recently given by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

When asked why we should not immediately end our military expedition into that medieval Asian backwater, Panetta told a congressional committee that to do so would dishonor the thousands of U.S. troops who have lost their lives in that war.

The U.S. must have victory in Afghanistan, Panetta says, otherwise how do we explain to the families of those killed that their loved ones died in vain?

I don’t know, how did we explain it to the families of the 50,000 American troops killed in Vietnam?

Following Panetta’s ludicrous logic, more American troops must be killed or maimed so the families of those already killed or maimed don’t feel embittered and disillusioned.

It’s sort of a macabre Ponzi scheme, isn’t it? American troops must keep dying to support the delusion that those already killed in the prolonged wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were necessary sacrifices to meet mercurial but ostensibly critical U.S. objectives.

First, the objective was to get the terrorists responsible for 9/11. OK, that needed doing. But, then it was to remove nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and then it was to plant democracy — any pretense to prolong hostilities.

Planting democracy in nations whose fractiously tribal and brutally repressive theologically based cultures haven’t changed in centuries is like planting palm trees in Antarctica.

And how do we determine victory in such wars? In South Vietnam, we simply declared victory and left as that country was being overrun by the North Vietnamese.

Similarly, there is no legitimate victory for us in Afghanistan and Iraq. The absurdly idealistic objective of transforming those nations into stable democracies is ultimately unattainable by us. If those countries want to be democracies, they must transform themselves.

The only winner in these wars is the voracious military/industrial complex eagerly taking advantage of an over-reaching U.S. foreign policy that is driven by ever-present national security threats that are sometimes real, but too often miscalculated or invented. The communist threat in Vietnam was miscalculated. The terrorist threat in Iraq was invented.

For decades, American lives and treasure have been wasted policing the world and pursuing protracted military misadventures. Few federal bureaucracies can waste taxpayer money like the profligate Pentagon can. You know, $500 toilet seats and $100 hammers.

Nevertheless, Panetta, in an effort to keep the pork rolling into the war machine, played the jobs card and warned a congressional committee that reducing the Pentagon’s budget by another trillion dollars would result in a massive new wave of unemployment.

Is war and preparing for war the only thing our economy can produce anymore?

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There are many alternative uses of those trillion dollars that would employ tens of thousands of Americans, while it benefitted and strengthened the nation far more than a new arsenal of the latest gee-whiz killing devices, or paying rent on 700 military bases around the world.

How about shoring up or replacing our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure? How about funding higher education, so more eligible American students can afford a college education? How about providing health care for those citizens rationed out of the system by the avaricious medical-insurance complex?

How about paying down the national debt?

Of all the cannibals stalking America’s economic jungle, the military/industrial complex wears the biggest bone in its nose. How morbidly sick is any society that allows human life to be sacrificed so that others can make money? But that is what we do when we start and prolong unnecessary wars.


Randy Alcorn is a resident of Santa Barbara County.