October 7 marks the 11th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan. It marks 11 long years after the United States military entered into war in response to the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 civilians.
Within days of one of the worst tragedies in American history, President George W. Bush and Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. The authorization, which was nearly unanimously approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, gave the president authorization to use U.S. Armed Forces to take “necessary and appropriate force against those who planned, authorized, committed or aided the September 11 attacks.”
At that time, many Americans were in full support of a military response to terrorists who were later identified as disciples of al-Qaeda and masterminded by its creator and leader, Osama Bin Laden. It was a time of unity and the decision to attack al Qaeda in Afghanistan was strongly supported by the vast majority of the American public.
What Americans did not realize was that the war would continue 11 years later, despite eliminating Bin Laden and despite eliminating many of the highest ranking officers of al Qaeda. According to Cost of War website, the cost of War in Afghanistan is approaching $600 billion, with more than 2,000 American soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice to their country, in addition to over 17,000 wounded. But what aren’t taken into account in these statistics are the long-term psychological effects of war that many American troops and veterans are now suffering including 11 percent of Afghanistan War veterans and 20 percent of Iraq War veterans who suffer from PTSD.
To make matters worse, the Veterans Administration has getting assailed for not taking care of its veterans as efficiently as it promised to do. A recent CNN report, said that the VA is drastically failing in managing disability claims, which number more than 860,000 veterans. CNN also said that more than a quarter of them – roughly 228,000, have been waiting for a year or longer to find out from the VA if they are eligible for benefits. That same report refers to what the VA says is that many veterans are coming home with severe and complex mental injuries, resulting in multiple claims and the enormous backlog they are experiencing. Still, it’s an American tragedy to know that American veterans have been effectively tied down in their interminable wait that’s far more than the 125 days VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised to process claims, with a 98 percent accuracy level. It’s a tragedy that veterans have to wait for months to determine if they are eligible for disability claims while trying to provide for themselves and in many instances, their families. What’s even more shocking is that the failures don’t stop there.
A story from Time Magazine published in July says that the suicide epidemic is killing more American soldiers than the War in Afghanistan. The story cites the deeply troubling rate of American military suicides is nearly one every single day and even more troubling, the trend is moving upward. The story also cites a military doctor who called the VA Hotline in a last ditch effort from taking his own life, but was put on hold for more than 45 minutes, resulting in his suicide. Being put on hold for any length of time to speak to someone on a Suicide Prevention Hotline is unacceptable. It’s staggering to realize other soldiers and veterans who live with an invisible or untreated disability, will endure the same type of treatment when seeking help. The story doesn’t end there because there is so much more that needs to be done in order to give health care to those who truly deserve it. There is the military saying “no one gets left behind.” Sadly, the American government needs to do more for veterans and returning soldiers for there were be thousands of troops returning when the War in Afghanistan is supposed to be over in 2014, which effectively means at least another full year of American casualties and life altering injuries.
On Sunday October 7, there will be a number of observances of the 11th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan. It’s likely that a good portion of these gatherings will be in protest of a war that has lingered far longer than anyone has imagined. Whether weary Americans agree or disagree with the continued American military occupation in Afghanistan, it’s fair to suggest that everyone agrees that war is hell. In observance of the 11th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan, it’s a time to put aside differences and honor those brave men and women in serve in today’s U.S. military, as well as those who gave their lives for their country.