By Matthew Rothschild on August 22, 2012

This week marks a grisly milestone in Afghanistan: The 2,000th U.S. service member has now died there.

And the pace of those deaths has increased, with Obama’s surge bringing about a surge of U.S. deaths. As the New York Times notes, it took about nine years of war to claim the first 1,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines. And it took just a little more than two years to slay the second thousand.

Just in the last week alone, nine U.S. servicemen have died at the hands of Afghan security forces who are supposed to be our allies.

President Obama needs to ask himself, as I’m sure many of our servicemen and their families are asking themselves, “Why are we over there if even our so-called friends are killing us?”

There are now more than twice as many U.S. service members in Afghanistan today than on the day George W. Bush left office.

And the ostensible reasons for keeping them just get murkier and murkier.

Osama bin Laden, after all, is dead. And he was killed not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan.

Defenders of the war say we need to stay there to keep the Taliban from coming back to power. But Karzai himself has endorsed a code of conduct by the country’s Islamic council that approves of husbands beating their wives under Sharia law.

The United States is not at war with Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons.

It is there because Afghanistan borders Iran to the West and China to the East: two countries in the Pentagon’s sights. And it is there because Afghanistan is a transport route for oil from the stans of the former Soviet Union down to the Arabian Sea.

These are the real reasons the United States is at war with Afghanistan. But these are not decent reasons for letting 2,000 U.S. service members perish.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Todd Akin Puts Paul Ryan on the Spot."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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