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Signs of the Times • 17 August 2021 • No. 214

Invocation. This is the kind of invocation playing out in my heart today, over the folly of the US war in Afghanistan: Maori haka dance by high school friends, performed at the funeral of a classmate.

The haka is a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture of indigenous people in Aorteraroa /New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movemnts and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Haka are performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.

If you cannot image the rage of God, you have nothing to say of God. —Ken Sehested

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  • US troops: 2,448
  • US contractors: 3,846
  • Afghans: 200,000 (est.)
  • NATO member alliance troops: 1,144
  • aid workers: 444
  • journalists: 72

Wounded: 20,660

US citizens killed 9/11 terrorist attacks in US, which led to US invasion of Afghanistan: 2,996

Total deaths as direct result of US wars after 9/11: 801,000

Suicides among post-9/11 veterans of US Global War on Terrorism: 30,177 (compared to combined total of 7,057 who died in combat)

Financial costs

  • Cost of the Afghanistan war, most of which was put on a credit card: $2,000,000,000,000
  • Interest paid on war debt to date; $925,000,000,000
  • Anticipated interest on war debt by 2030: $2,000,000,000,000
  • 92% and 77% rise in taxes for top earners to pay for World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively
  • 8% tax cut for the wealthiest for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Cost for US post-9/11 wars combined: $6,400,000,000,000

Financial benefits: Investors in US arms makers reaped 58% more profit than other stocks over the past 20 years.

Confession. Everybody wants peace. But we also want what we cannot get without war. This is our predicament.

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Congressional oversight of wars since 9/11

  • Number of times U.S. lawmakers have voted to declare war in Afghanistan: 0
  • Number of times lawmakers on Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee addressed costs of Vietnam War, during that conflict: 42
  • Number of times lawmakers in same subcommittee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 5
  • Number of times lawmakers on Senate Finance Committee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 1
  • Members of Congress who voted against the war in Afghanistan: 1
  • Number of times the US Authorization for Use of Military Force (Congress’ authorization for the US President to wage war on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces”) has been used to authorize combat, military training, detention, and deployments: 37 in 15 countries.

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Call to prayer. “Tell me where is the road I can call my own, / That I left, that I lost, so long ago. / All these years I have wondered, oh when will I know, / There’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home.

“After wind, After rain, when the dark is done, / As I wake from a dream, in the gold of day, / Through the air there’s a calling from far away, / There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.

“Rise up, follow me, come away is the call / With (the) love in your heart as the only song / There is no such beauty as where you belong / Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.” —“The Road Home,” Stephen Paulus, performed by Conspirare

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Benediction. “War/No More Trouble.—Playing for Change, featuring Bono

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Data sources:The Cost of the Afghanistan War, in Lives and Dollars,” Newsweek • “Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies,” BBC  • “Teaching Costs of War,” Watson Institute, Brown University • “Afghan War Has Claimed 241,000 Lives, Report Finds,” Ayaz Gul, Voice of America • “Four times as many troops and vets have died by suicide as in combat, study finds,” Meghann Myers, Military Times  • “How one vote opened the door for more than 15 years of war,” Gregory Krieg, CNN • “Was the Afghanistan War a failure? Not for the top five defense contractors and their shareholders,” Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

600 Afghans leaving Kabul on a US Air Force C-130 cargo plane.
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