As killings surge in “pacified” Iraq and our war in Afghanistan appears more lost than ever, the question was rising anyway: Were American lives lost in those two wars, particularly in Afghanistan, “in vain”?
Now, more than ever, this debate has been sparked by the new (surprise) hit movie Lone Survivor and comments by that survivor of an ill-fated Afghanistan mission, Marcus Luttrell. He got into a bit of a tiff on TV the other day with CNN’s Jake Tapper (a big supporter of vets groups, by the way) after the news host gently suggested it was at least worthy to wonder about that lives-lost-in-vain question. I’m old enough to remember going through all this re: Vietnam about forty years ago.
That sparked a round of Web shouting at Tapper, or at Luttrell, and then a round of defending each. Glenn Beck, a Luttrell buddy, joined in. Tapper took to Facebook to declare that he did not say or believe that the death “meant nothing” and posted this:
We need to have open, honest, and yes uncomfortable conversations about this war. We can’t do that if any time someone sees things differently they’re accused of hating the troops. Questions HONOR the troops. And our freedom to ask them is what they fight and die for..
Does each of the deaths in Afghanistan make sense to my critics? If so, God bless and give me your number, I know some widows and moms who would love to hear the explanation, the “sense.”
That is not the same however as saying those troops died in vain. They died for whatever brought them there. Their battle buddies. Their faith. Their sense of justice.…
I would hope that my reporting trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, my book about Combat Outpost Keating, my two CNN documentaries about Medal of Honor recipients, and my continued reporting on veterans and troops and their families would belie that accusation.
Now, via Tom Ricks’s site at Foreign Policy, a former intelligence officer, Jim Gourley, has raised provocative questions—under the heading, “Yes, Marcus. They Did Die in Vain”—that are sure to spark more discussion (and probably anger in some quarters). You have to register to read it, so I’ll link here to a lengthy summary and excerpts at AmericaBlog, including: