A few days ago., the Cincinnati Enquirer carried an article that detailed one of the tragic costs — veteran suicides — of the U.S. government’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The story revolved around three veterans who recently took their own lives after suffering for years with war-related loss of limbs and brain injuries.
While leading a Marine unit in Afghanistan ten years ago, Rory Hamill stepped on a land mine, which severed his right leg and sent him down a long road of surgeries and recovery. When he committed suicide last April, he was 31 years old.
Andy McCaffrey was a Green Beret who lost his arm in 2003 when a grenade exploded in his hand while he was serving in Afghanistan. He killed himself this past summer. He was 48 at the time of his death.
An explosion in Iraq in 2006 left Brent Hendrix without his right leg above the knee and an injured left leg. He also suffered abdominal injuries and severe brain trauma. While he was in treatment, his mother took her life, and his father died soon after that. He committed suicide last April. He was 35 years old.
Those are only three of the many costs of U.S. interventionism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the families of all three men, those costs have been enormous.
I remember well the post-9/11 environment, when U.S. officials, under the George W. Bush regime, were signaling that they were going to initiate military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Here at FFF, we were fiercely opposing those plans, pointing out that they would be nothing more than a continuation of the foreign interventionism that had led to the 9/11 attacks as well as to other terrorist attacks, such as the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, and the attacks on U.S. Embassies in East Africa.
We were inundated by angry and hateful emails from both conservatives and liberals, telling us that we were cowards, traitors, and lovers of terrorism.
I can’t help but wonder what those critics would say today to the families of Rory Hamill, Andy McCaffrey, and Brent Hendrix. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder what they would have told these three guys after they returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Would they have said, “Buck it up, fellas. War is hell.” Would they have thanked them for their “service” and their sacrifice? Would they have pointed out to them that they had been injured protecting America and our freedoms here at home? Would they say that the mens’ injuries had been “worth it”?
Killing and dying for nothing
The discomforting fact is what we here at FFF were pointing out in the run-up to those military escapades — that people were going to get killed, injured, and maimed for nothing. Contrary to what interventionists said at the time and even say today, American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t get killed or injured protecting our “freedoms” here at home because no one over there was trying to take away our freedom. They were getting killed and injured to protect the president’s and the U.S. national-security establishment’s “right” to intervene anywhere it the world they wanted for the purpose of revenge, domination, control, and regime change.
And that means that every American soldier who lost his life in Afghanistan or Iraq died for nothing. The same holds true for all those soldiers who came back maimed or injured.
In retrospect, who were the ones who were supporting Rory Hamill, Andy McCaffrey, and Brent Hendrix — those of us who were opposing sending them over there or those who were “supporting the troops” while supporting the interventions? At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if the U.S. government had never invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, those three men would still be alive, well, and whole today.
What about Osama bin Laden, who U.S. officials were accusing of having orchestrated the 9/11 attacks? As we pointed out at the time, the best approach would have been simply to have put out a reward for his arrest or capture and then bring him back to the United States for trial. That’s in fact what is often done with people who are accused of crimes. Bin Laden would have been unable to travel and would have been totally isolated. Ultimately, it is likely that he would have been caught and bought back fdsomeone would have turned on him and claimed the reward.
That’s in fact what happened with Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorists involved in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. After the attack, he made it back to Pakistan. U.S. officials patiently waited for him to turn up. He was arrested in Pakistan a couple of years after the 9/11 attacks and sent back to the United States for trial. He is currently incarcerated in a U.S. penitentiary.
In other words, no invasion of Pakistan. No deaths and maiming of U.S. soldiers and countless Pakistanis. No destruction of the country. No destruction of liberty here at home.
Compare that approach with what U.S. officials did with Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Massive death, suffering, and destruction arising from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, not to mention the loss of liberty here at home at the hands of the U.S. government.
The invasion of Iraq, of course, was even more egregious. It was based on nothing but U.S. government lies. “WMDs!” “Mushroom clouds!” “Hitler reincarnated!” “Operation Iraqi Freedom!” It was all a bunch of tripe designed to build up popular support for regime change in Iraq. The U.S. soldiers who died or got injured there did so for nothing. The people they killed, tortured, or maimed in Iraq died or got injured or tortured for nothing.
Maybe — just maybe — the suicides of Rory Hamill, Andy McCaffrey, and Brent Hendrix will cause more Americans to question not just “the forever wars” but also the very concept of foreign interventionism. If so, at least the suffering and deaths of those three men will have some redeeming value.