Editorials | Opinions
|The Way We Forget|
William Rivers Pitt - t r u t h o u t
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October 17, 2010
This country of ours has a monstrous capacity to forget. We are able to forget - if we ever knew - what happened two hundred years ago, one hundred years ago, fifty years ago, ten years ago. Worse, we are able to forget what happened one year ago, last month, last week, and even yesterday. We forget, we ignore, we refuse to know, and in our deliberate ignorance are found the seeds of further destruction, widely sown and also to be forgotten.
It has been made far too clear that our national amnesia certainly extends over the last two years. After an era of Republican rule that saw vast economic collapse, the abrogation of basic rights, the trashing of Constitutional law, two decade-long wars that still have no end in sight, a catastrophic terrorist attack that could have been prevented, the virtual annihilation of a major American city that could have been prevented, and the theft and waste of trillions of dollars, every available poll appears to indicate that the American people have already forgotten all about it, and are perfectly ready to let the wolves back inside the fence.
For proof, if proof is even required, I offer an article from Friday's New York Times:
|It has been going on there for nine years and counting. Nearly 100,000 American troops are currently deployed there. More than 1,300 American service members have lost their lives there. The United States has spent over $300 billion on the effort so far. Yet polling suggests that the war in Afghanistan is barely a blip on voters' radars as the midterm elections approach.|
In a nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last month, 60 percent of Americans said that the economy or jobs were the most important problems facing the country. A mere 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan or the war.
Three percent mentioned as important a war that has been grinding out death and calamity for more than nine years. Three percent. The war in Afghanistan is all but forgotten.
The dying, however, continues apace.
From the eighth of October through the fifteenth of October, a Friday through a Friday, 28 soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Seventeen were killed in the last three days of that week. One was from the United Kingdom, one was from Poland, four were from Italy, twelve were from the United States, and the names of ten more have not been released at the time of this writing. The oldest of the dead was 34 years old, a Sergeant. The youngest was 19. Each and every one of them died from hostile fire - rocket, IED, mortar or small arms. For the week ending October 13th, 188 casualties - both the dead and the wounded - were officially reported. The total number of American soldiers killed as of the 15th stands as 1,334, and the total number of NATO fatalities stands at 2,161.
There is also this, a fact within facts:
|The number of U.S. soldiers who have suffered amputations in Afghanistan has increased sharply over last year as more troops move into Taliban territory, according to Army data.|
Amputations rose from 47 in 2009 to 77 through Sept. 23 of this year, or an increase of more than 60%, the Army reports. The chief cause of the injuries are improvised explosive devices - or IEDs - that are planted in the ground or along roads, according to the International Security Assistance Force, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan.
Coalition forces have been hit by more IEDs in recent weeks as the surge in U.S. troops allows for expanded operations into traditional Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan.
The vast majority of amputations involve the loss of either an arm or leg, but a dozen soldiers this year have had multiple amputations, twice the number of such cases in 2009. At the NATO hospital, doctors amputated a major limb - a leg or arm - an average of once every other day in September, according to Navy Capt. Michael Mullins, a hospital spokesman. The operations included not only U.S. troops, but also NATO troops, Afghan soldiers and civilians, Mullins said.
Coverage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan is spotty at best - the "We don't do body counts" ethic continues apace - but the Predator drones have been hard at work, along with the rest of our fearful conventional arsenal, and the number of civilian dead and wounded stands tall in the thousands.
Argue against the war, or for it. Say we must withdraw, or that we must "finish the job," whatever that means. It would be nice if such a debate were actually taking place, because the debate is sorely needed. But we are incapable of even beginning to begin such a conversation. People are not disagreeing about the war. They are not even thinking about it, by a count of 97 to 3 percent.
The media is to blame for this. The politicians are to blame for this. The economy is to blame for this.
We are to blame for this.
It is amazing, astonishing, appalling, horrifying the way we forget.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.