RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Find Non-Violent Solutions

Our beleaguered president is always worried about which side his bread is buttered on. First he’s all about peace in Syria and reducing the military, which makes me love him, then he’s all about war in Afghanistan, which brings out other feelings. See, I’m a voter and he should be buttering up me, but instead he’s with the oily lobbyists from Wall Street war corporations. Sorry about the mixed metaphors.

Even though Secretary of State John Kerry has gone to great lengths to explain that the billions we spend in Kabul, propping up our friends in the Afghan government, will be limited, peace lovers can’t help but think we’re slipping into another endless war. Maybe we can call it a “sub-war” or a “corollary war” after the “official” 12-year war. That, the New York Times asserts, is the longest war in American history. The “corollary” will cease at 2024, according to the agreement.

Think Iraq. Better, think Vietnam.

The deal, which the New York Times reported, came after two “direct calls” from Kerry to Afghan president Hamid Karzai—TWO! One reason for the second call, apparently, was to state the administration’s refusal for Obama to acknowledge American mistakes in the “official” war. Hope those calls were recorded and get into the archive some day.

But I digress. In my private moments, I’ve decided to call this sub-war a result of “Gates gate,” because it started one week after the release of Robert Gates’ new book. The new deal seems to be the inevitable result of a stressed and harassed leader who has been attacked in print by his former defense secretary at a time when he’s still in office. Shouldn’t the accusations in Gates’ new book, Duty, have waited until this administration was safely retired? Could the release be considered treason? You decide.

If Gates had a lick of sense, he would have waited. His book has been called “scathing,” and he calls the administration “incompetent” and “egotistical,” especially in regard to handling Afghanistan. By pointing at them, and excusing himself, he set the wheels in motion.

With the new Afghanistan deal, the United States has a guarantee that American soldiers will not face Afghan prosecution and the US can continue to raid private Afghan homes if they suspect terrorists live there.

We don’t want to see Afghanistan turn into a haven for terrorists again, at least not until after 2024.

And Afghanistan wants the guarantee that more billions will come their way, delivered by American corporations in the form of weapons, infrastructure, food for the troops and, oh yeah, the troops themselves.

For a while, I thought Obama had figured out that the costs of caring for veterans is a key part of the equation. I include the social costs in this equation. Author Pat Conroy has been rattling the airwaves with promotions of his new book, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son. This book, if you haven’t heard one or more of Conroy’s numerous interviews, tells about the Conroys, mostly focusing on the children’s and wife’s struggles with a World War II-era fighter pilot father. Dad, a marine, moved the gang dozens of times, and abused and fought with all of them.

This was a dad that earned the hate of his kids. In the car, after he told the story of getting the phone number from his future bride, daughter Carol Ann “always wailedout into the night: ‘Tell him the wrong number, Mom. One digit. Just one digit and none of this had to happen. None of us would’ve been born ... Please. For all of us, tell him the wrong number.”

Conrad seems to be aware that the volatile and unpredictable outbursts of his dad have something to do with World War II post-traumatic-stress-disorder, which was just being recognized as a “disorder” at the time, but the military mindset of our culture affects more than just one family. Conroy should take his campaign to the next level and talk about the effects of service on our current military families, the appalling numbers of homeless and maladjusted, the suicides.

For generations, military life has shaped the lives of US kids as they’ve grown, whether they were the children of draftees who only served a few years, or, like Conroy, the kids of career men that dragged them from base to base. No other influence—not church nor state—has been as pervasive as the military in our society. It is the root of our great national paranoia.

It is valuable to see leaders grope toward solving problems with negotiations. Only through practice will we get good at finding non-violent solutions to major conflicts around ethnicity, race, religion and the other things that divide us.

The world needs these efforts now more than ever.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. She blogs at Email:

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2014

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