Michael McConnell is Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social-justice organization.
On the seventh anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the silence is deafening.
Why isn't ending the longest war in U.S. history a higher priority for public debate during this time of decision by voters?
Let’s review: the human and fiscal costs of the war both here and abroad total thousands of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded, hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians killed and wounded, and more than half a trillion dollars. These costs are rising every day as tracked by the National Priorities Project’s war counter.
What’s worse, runaway spending on the war and the military in general has put us in a situation where priorities like education, housing, and many other vital domestic needs are taking a back seat - at a time when millions of hard-working families are struggling.
The cost of this war contributes to the high employment and ongoing recession plaguing the U.S. today. Moving military spending to health care or education would generate more than twice as many jobs here, empirical evidence has shown. For every 12 jobs created by military spending we could create 29 jobs in education alone, the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute has found.
These costs stem from a war that is neither “good” nor “necessary,” contrary to the Obama Administration’s assertions - nor has it made us safer. A secure country requires much more than weapons and an active military. It requires a strong domestic economy, a healthy and civically engaged population, educated youth, and dialogue with others.
The millions spent on the war could have been spent on peaceful, productive projects like just roads, bridges and public transit and on hospitals, child care centers, libraries, schools; many in dire need of workers to keep them functioning and connecting neighbors to neighbors. They could be spent to preserve and create new jobs, and provide services to those who need them – like food for children in poverty, cancer screenings to keep people healthy, and compensation for laid-off workers,
Since our founding in a time of war, 1917, the American Friends Service Committee has resisted war and has worked to ameliorate the tragic consequences of violence and armed conflict. Based on years of experience in the region and building peace in communities at home and abroad, we advocate a better way to end the Afghanistan war.
We urge a strategy based on diplomacy, the rule of law, accountability and development that improves the lives of both the U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians. Specifically, we ask the Obama Administration to immediately begin talks with all parties to the conflict and redirect the funds spent on war to human needs at home and in Afghanistan.
Join us in breaking the silence over this longest-running war. Call your member of Congress. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Talk with your friends and neighbors. Eleven years is too long. Let’s end the Afghanistan war now.
Michael McConnell is Midwest Regional Director and Kerri Kennedy is Interim Associate General Secretary for International Programs of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker based peace and social justice organization that operates programs in 34 cities and 14 countries around the world.