The front page of this morning’s Chicago Tribune reported the death of U.S. Army paratrooper Michael Isaiah Nance of Chicago. He was killed in combat in Afghanistan, a country whose war the United States has been active in for the past 18 years. (“‘The worst day in our family’s history’,” Chicago Tribune, August 1, 2019)
Americans have all but forgotten that our soldiers are fighting and dying in this protracted war on the other side of the world. A recent deployment of National Guardsmen to Afghanistan has reminded us. So, too, have the deaths of our young soldiers. More than 2,000 service members have died in Afghanistan since 2001. It’s time to rethink our involvement there.
When President George W. Bush ordered troops into Afghanistan on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, there was near unanimous support for military action against the heinous group of al Qaeda members hiding out in the mountains there. Justice for the lives of those lost in the cowardly attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania demanded it. And while al Qaeda still poses a terrorist threat, it has greatly diminished over the past couple of decades. Many of the masterminds of the 9/11 attack, including Osama bin Laden himself, have been captured or killed.
Afghanistan, unfortunately, is still a dangerous and unstable place. But history should teach us that it is also an unconquerable place. Just ask the former Soviet Union, whose bloody war there in the 1980s cost them 15,000 lives and caused massive displacement of the Afghani people. Ironically, the Muslim insurgents who bedeviled the USSR for nine years were supported militarily by the United States. Now we are engaged in a war against Muslim insurgents ourselves.
No matter the direction of U.S. policy, however, let us never forget the human cost of sending our loved ones into harm’s way. Twenty-four-year-old Isaiah Nance had wanted to join the Army for years before his mother finally relented and let him sign up. He was deployed to Afghanistan only a couple of weeks before being shot to death, possibly by an Afghan soldier. (Tribune, Aug. 1, 2019) Also killed was a 20-year-old Ohio soldier named Brandon Jay Kreischer. As Nance’s uncle put it, “It was the worst day in our family’s history.”
May their sacrifice be remembered and appreciated, and may their loved ones take comfort in the knowledge that they died for something they believed in.