Besides the agony of 13 families who lost loved ones just days before the war came to an end, what grips the mind is the fact that several of the fallen service members were just 20 years old or not much older than that. Their short lives lasted exactly as long as the war.
Two-thousand four-hundred Americans were killed in Afghanistan during 20 years of war, but the final 13 are the ones on our minds right now. They are the 11 U.S. Marines, one Army staff sergeant and one Navy hospitalman slaughtered in a suicide bomber attack at the Kabul airport as they assisted in the effort to evacuate thousands of Afghans who had helped American troops and were escaping retribution from the victorious Taliban insurgents.
Besides the agony of 13 families who lost loved ones just days before the war came to an end, what grips the mind is the fact that several of the fallen service members were just 20 years old or not much older than that. Their short lives lasted exactly as long as the war that claimed them.
Faced with the deaths of soldiers, the question is always this: Was their sacrifice in vain? Did it accomplish something important for the country or for humankind, or was it a shameful waste that should never have happened?
The 13 died trying to save a multitude of desperate people who faced likely death themselves. With more than 100,000 people flown to safety in the airlift that these 13 helped enable, one could certainly say their sacrifice was meaningful. But in the larger picture of a war that could have and should have ended 10 years ago when Osama bin Laden was taken down, it can also be argued that the loss of these 13 — and many hundreds more in previous years — was the terrible, unnecessary result of failed leadership in the Pentagon, in Congress and in the White House through the administrations of four presidents. While some in positions of authority spent years painting rosy pictures of a hopeless war effort to please those above them in the chain of command, others came to regard Afghanistan as a political hot potato best tossed to someone else.
The direct cause of the deaths of these 13 American heroes was clearly the evil fanaticism of Islamic State terrorists. But at least some measure of blame must be shared by a long list of leaders who kept the war going because they feared that ending it might threaten their careers in the military or in politics.
That is a pitiful cause for which no one should have died.
See more of David Horsey’s cartoons at: st.news/davidhorsey
View other syndicated cartoonists at: st.news/cartoons