Imagine it’s the week of Christmas and you’re far away from home.
There is no chance that you will see your family or your once familiar friends in time. You miss the taste of pizza and there’s likely no gifts waiting for you around the corner. You’ve been far away from home for a while. Or perhaps it’s only been a short time but it’s your second, third, or even fourth time doing this.
And then you get killed in the line of duty.
This is what happened on Monday to 6 American soldiers at the largest US military base in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber riding on a motorcycle attacked a patrol of American soldiers and Afghanistan officials. In addition to the 6 soldiers that died in the explosion, 2 more were wounded, as was an Afghan interpreter.
One of the soldiers was Joseph Lemm, a New York police veteran who hadn’t seen his family in over a year. Another was a woman named Adrianna Vorderbruggen of the Air Force. Vorderbruggen was a gay rights activist who fought against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and leaves behind her wife and adopted son.
Both of these individuals will never spend another Christmas with their families. They won’t be able to experience the joy of being around their loved ones. The state has decided that this fruitless, costly and morally atrocious war should take the lives of more men and women.
And now that they’ve died, ABC reports, “New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton released a statement Monday night, saying Lemm ‘epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his country and city first.'”
I’m not one to rely on Ayn Rand as a voice of discontent but this is the epitome of using altruism as a weapon. The subordination of the individual to the nation-state is one of the biggest elements that keeps war thriving. Their self-worth isn’t defined by what they do for their families, communities or themselves. It’s what they do for their counties, cities, states and country, a.k.a. their government.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and by many accounts is making progress in the southern parts of Afghanistan. After more than a decade of wars in the Middle East it is morbidly laughable that the cycle of violence continues.
As of last Christmas, President Obama told us that the war would be over. Yet those soldiers still waited there and died in a war that mixes elements of American imperialism and the War on Drugs. Given the abysmal failure of the Wars on Terror and Drugs, these soldiers have likely died in vain.
In Afghanistan, poppy seeds inflate terrorist groups in the region of Helmand. But despite the presence of US soliders attempting to cut them off from this funding source, several outlets such as CNN and ABC have said that it’s possible the entire region could fall within a few days to the Taliban.
Even the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter expressed disappointment: “The Taliban’s advances in some parts of the country, however temporary, underscore that it’s a tough fight and it’s far from over.”
ABC reports “the bodies of the six airmen will be received at Dover Air Force Base Wednesday in a dignified transfer ceremony.”
But there is no dignity in war and there is no dignity in being separated from your family. There is no dignity in dying for unjust, fruitless wars, ones that have taken so much, yet given so little.
Wars stop us from practicing good will, they hamper peace on earth and they deny life itself.
So let’s do the festive thing and end the real war on Christmas: War itself.