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Bring troops home from Afghanistan
Aug 28, 2012 - By The Seattle Times
Two thousand is just a number. The number of pounds in a ton. The number of years in two millennia.
The number of U.S. dead in Afghanistan, according to a recent New York Times analysis of Department of Defense figures.
It's that last example that brings 2,000 into stark focus. It is not just a number for those who have died, their families and friends.
The war in Afghanistan is no more justified or reckless at 2,000 dead than it was at 1,999 or than it will be at 2001. The war might have been justified any time before the number hit 500 in 2008. By then, al-Qaida, the terrorist group behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was no longer able to operate training camps out of Afghanistan. The Taliban were driven from power. A justified step in protecting the world from terrorism had been taken.
Keeping the Taliban out of power and al-Qaida headed for oblivion remain worthwhile goals. But are they reason enough to risk more U.S. losses --Â not to mention more deaths among other NATO nations participating there or adding more to the thousands of civilian deaths?
Michael Baumgartner thinks not. But he's having a hard time getting anyone to talk about the war. Baumgartner, a Washington State senator from Spokane, is running against U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and is critical of her early support for the war. (More recently she has called for bringing the troops home and ending the war.)
Baumgartner, a Republican, resorted to using a four-letter word to express his frustration to a Seattle reporter who had called asking his views on the Cotton Mather deviltries of a Missouri senatorial candidate.
But if you look at Baumgartner's website, the language is tamer and more reasonable. He spent seven months in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor working with a counter-narcotics team. From that and his other diplomatic experience he concludes that the country is "too poor, too remote, too uneducated and too close to Pakistan's ungoverned tribal areas for our massive war effort to succeed."
Fighting international terrorism should become a multinational-police operation. Preventing a return to power by the Taliban in Afghanistan should become an international-aid operation.
The next number worth focusing on should be 80,000. That is the number of U.S. troops that should be brought home.