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07 April 2012

The cost of war in Afghanistan

For all of us in India, the cost of the American lives lost in the decade old war in Iraq and Afghanistan is at best a theoretical exercise. We use the number of Americans dead in the war as a validation of our initial opinion that US should not have gone to the war in the first place. 'Having gone to an ill judged war', we say, 'the Americans have to learn to deal with the consequences'.
Distance tend to intellectualize the issues. Lack of our involvement in the war make us 'disinterested parties'. But for the families and the communities in the small towns across America, the pain, the impact, the consequences are all real, in-your-face and very, very saddening.
The other day, I got a taste of what the ordinary American is feeling, when I visited Walmart.
Right at the entrance to Walmart, they have put up on a wall, the photos of all the young men (yes, they were mostly young men), who paid the ultimate price, with their lives, in the ill thoughtout war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The picture as seen in Walmart is attached above. These are the pictures of young men from around Batavia who lost their lives in the Iraq / Afghanistan war.
Each picture had a caption with their names and the place where they lost their lives, Iraq or Afghanistan. 
All of them were the pictures of young men, in the pride of their lives, sons of proud parents, husbands of proud ladies, fathers of very small children (who, when they grow up, will be proud of their fathers) and committed lovers to their girl friends.....
Seeing the pictures of young lives, snatched out of their hands even before they had begun, made me feel very, very sad. While one part (the rational, objective part) of me kept saying that this is an internal affair of the US, the other, emotional,  part of me, reminded me that these are all the people that shared a life with me in this planet for about 25 years on an average. These are all people who laid their lives because their leaders made terrible choices and they were too proud of their responsibility to go against the wishes of their leaders.
Coming to think of it, the worst part of their death is not that they went and died in a god forsaken country, but the worst part is the knowledge that the citizens of the countries (Iraq / Afghanistan) for whom they laid down their lives, will not even show the gratitude that these dead soldiers thoroughly deserve. For most of the citizens of these countries, on US soldier dead is 'One less enemy on their soil'. 
America went to the second world war and people of most of the countries on whose side they fought, be it France, England or other parts of Europe, were very grateful to the Americans for coming in to their country and liberating them. But the absolute lack of gratitude on the part of those who are supposedly being benefited by their actions, is most galling aspect of this war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That thought make me even more sad...

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