Every day, more and more people are willing to state the obvious: the Afghanistan War isn't making us safer and it's not worth the cost. Now the president is losing a powerful constituency on his Afghanistan policy: almost half of military families say the troops should be brought home. Let's think for a minute about why a military family would oppose a war where their loved ones are fighting. There are a lot of possible reasons. Military families may have become aware that the war isn't making us safer. That's supposed to be the military's job -- to defend our country. But military members and their loved ones get an up-close-and-personal view of the brutal nature of the war, of the incredible waste and corruption in the way our tax dollars are spent, and of the resentment caused by a drawn-out military occupation of another country. When they or their loved ones see firsthand that the Taliban's momentum hasn't been reversed even after a huge troop increase, it's understandable they'd decide to oppose this war.
They may know that this year is already the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. 450 of those families know this in a terribly personal way -- that's how many U.S. troops have died this year alone, so far, according to iCasualties.org. An empty chair at a Thanksgiving table is more than enough reason to decide it's time to bring those troops home. They may know that amputations among those serving in Afghanistan are skyrocketing. Through September 23 of this year, 77 service-members in Afghanistan had to have an extremity cut off, usually because of grave IED injuries. (That's a 60-percent increase over last year.) A dozen had to have multiple amputations. (That's double last year's number.) In September, at the NATO Hospital in Kandahar, doctors amputated a major limb every other day. Seeing your loved one come home without an arm, or a leg, or all of the above is absolutely reason enough to decide you want this war to end. These families may have a loved one who came home apparently unscathed by a near miss with an IED, only to discover they suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), "a sudden trauma to the brain caused by force," like that of an IED shockwave. These injuries can take quite a while to manifest their symptoms, but the result can be crippling. According to ProPublica's fact sheet on TBI:
"A severe TBI can leave a person almost incapable of functioning. But even a mild TBI -- a concussion -- can lead to a range of debilitating symptoms: headaches, balance problems, hearing problems, lack of self-control, mood changes, ringing in the ears, problems sleeping and memory loss."
Anywhere between 115,000 and 400,000 troops have a TBI. Military families may have watched a loved one struggle with strange symptoms from an injured brain, unable to sleep, focus, or balance their emotions, and decide that this war wasn't worth another 100,000 people having to deal with this pain. They or a military family member they know may have lost someone to suicide -- one military member commits suicide every 36 hours. Last year, there were more than 1,800 suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Those statistics are intimately tied to traumatic brain injuries, especially multiple traumatic brain injuries. They may be tired of losing their loved ones to multiple, harrowing deployments. They may be tired of not having a person next to them at the holidays. They may simply be tired of watching the hope of the next generation wasted on a war that's not making us safer. We are grinding our military families into the ground with this brutal, futile war, while its backers sacrifice very little to keep the troops mired in this brutal, futile war. Don't think for a second that military families don't notice. The Afghanistan War isn't making us safer, and it's not worth the cost. If you want to support the troops by bringing them home, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.