Last week Sergeant Aaron X. Wittman of Chester, Virginia was shot and killed while on a mounted patrol with the Third Infantry Division in the Khogyani District of Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan. He was the first U.S. combat death of 2013. His death and funeral were ignored by President Obama, Vice-President Biden, Secretary of Defense Panetta, Secretary of State Clinton, all of Congress and 99.9% of the U.S. news media.
Last month 13 other anonymous Americans were killed in Afghanistan and an unknown number were maimed, wounded, injured or were evacuated due to disease or mental illness. Apparently the U.S. military also suffers about one suicide per day. Accurate data on all of this is almost impossible to find. Such news is neither fun nor happy so it officially scorned. The stories of these Americans wind up in the news media and Congressional trash bins, never to see the light of day.
Such official silence is dishonorable and it has consequences. There are forces in the universe that value honor and penalize the unscrupulous. Events are already moving forward in retribution. Taliban troop strength remains about 35,000; it is returning to its former strongholds in Marjah and Kandahar; it has expanded its influence in the south, west and north, and it is about to open its first “embassy” in Qatar. Last month the Pentagon grounded the Afghan Air Force’s entire fleet of fifteen C-27A transports because NATO’s Italian maintenance contractor (Alenia Aermacchi) was unable to keep the fleet safely flying. The Afghan security forces have now begun to decline, with paper troop levels to be cut in half in about a year. The war is truly winding down, with the West leaving behind the same legacy as the Soviets before them.
The truth is that there will be no fanfare, no victory parades before grateful Afghans, no war memorials and no sacred graveyards. Like Iraq, the primary U.S. goal in Afghanistan is to successfully retreat in the night with a minimum of casualties. The Obama Administration plans to leave behind a weak puppet government, exactly like the similarly exhausted Soviet Government did when it was forced to retreat. Contrary to President Obama’s proclamation last week, that is not historic. History records that such puppet governments have a limited life-span. History also records that countries which wage war to the point of exhaustion, begin to decline and tend to collapse.
Readers should note how the Secretaries of State and Defense (Clinton and Panetta), like rats deserting a sinking ship, are leaving office before catastrophes in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere are recognized. They can therefore boast that none of these debacles occurred on their watches. Their goal is to avoid being blemished by their flawed military and diplomatic decisions.
As Obama Administration officials concentrate on salvaging their petty careers, 60,000+ troops remain in Afghanistan, forgotten and alone; knowing that if they are killed or maimed, they will be treated as an embarrassment. If they are killed, their coffins will be quickly shuttled back to their families for a quiet burial. If they are maimed, they will be promptly discharged, shunted off to a Veterans Administration hospital and forgotten.
The emphasis today is on starting up a new war in Mali with the West intervening in a civil war being waged by Tuareg rebels in what is called the Azawad region of Mali. U.S. special operations units have been in Mali since last year in a so-far unsuccessful effort to combat the Tuareg. Most Americans do not know that they are now at war with the Tuareg peoples and most could not even find the Azawad on a map, but Americans may begin dying there shortly.
The U.S. goal is to prop up the military-dominated government of Acting “President” Dioncounda Traore. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have chronicled terrible human rights abuses by the Malian military, including torture and extrajudicial killings. Regardless, the cycle continues with the U.S. in its old role of supporting pro-Western dictators with poor human rights records against ethnic rebels. Contrary to Washington, D.C. myths, no lessons were learned from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. The same mistakes are repeated over and over.
As we enter 2013, every American should know who Sergeant Aaron X. Wittman was. There should be national concern over the family he leaves behind and national recognition of his sacrifice. A government that does not honor its fallen will be judged dealt harshly by history, and the fates will not be kind to it.