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November 3rd, 2009
07:28 AM ET

Military families cry out: Stop asking us to pay the price of hubris

Editor's Note: Lisa Leitz is an assistant professor of Sociology at Hendrix College and the wife of a U.S. Naval aviator currently deployed in support of the war in Afghanistan. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Leitz.

By Lisa Leitz, PhD
Military Families Speak Out Board of Directors

As President Obama weighs the strategy in Afghanistan, I along with the members of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) ask him to consider the burden he is asking military families to bear. While most Americans go about their daily lives, military families, who make up less than 1% of the total U.S. population, are being crushed by the weight of the current wars.

In the eight years of America’s war in Afghanistan, 911 military families lost their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters (and an additional 4,357 lost loved ones in Iraq). October 2009 was in fact the deadliest month of the war in all eight years. Tens of thousands of military families battle with the daily difficulties of war injuries. Friends of mine have had to quit jobs or school in order to care for loved ones, and they continue to struggle to secure the care these veterans deserve. An estimated 500,000 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq wrestle with PTSD, and their loved ones fight daily battles with an overburdened Veterans’ Administration and to hold their families together.

Hundreds of thousands of us strive to keep marriages and families from falling apart as our loved ones repeatedly deploy without the recommended and necessary down time. Personally, I have barely seen my husband in the last 3 years. He is currently stationed aboard the USS Nimitz from which he flies missions over Afghanistan. When he returns from this deployment, he will have served away from his home base for 26 out of the last 36 months. These deployments have meant a life on hold. It added years to my time in school, I’ve had to move and set up our first house without him, and we have postponed dozens of decisions about our family’s future.

In spite of military members’ best efforts over the last eight years, there has been little tangible progress made in Afghanistan. We are no closer to peace or national security because of our military might. Eight years of war have brought little to no improvement in public services, education, or equality to Afghanistan. The American-backed government in Afghanistan is infested with corruption, election fraud, warlords, and drug dealers. Many of the Afghans who fight the U.S. military do so simply out of resentment of our occupation, not out of allegiance to terrorism or the Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghans have died as a result of this war, and their traumatized families blame the U.S. for their plight. We need to listen to the people of Afghanistan, including women’s and human rights organizations, and former American diplomats who have served in Afghanistan, such as Ann Wright and Matthew Hoh, and increase social services and schools there, not troop levels.

Historically, wars in Afghanistan have brought down several world powers; let our hubris in Afghanistan not be the end of America as we know it. The surge and any continuation of the war will only destroy more lives, detract from our military capabilities to face threats at home, further threaten America’s international credibility, and push this country further into debt. Please stop the madness and support military families in the process.

Filed under: Commentary
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Jayne Martin

    Dear CNN, I believe John Roberts is so talented, knowledgable, articulate that he should be considered for the ABC anchor news after Diane Sawyer' ratings sink further. I know that this is not your company–but he is that good and everyone else pales next to him regarding what he knows, where he has been and what he has accomplished. And he is calm and non-plussed.

    So please tell him. He should go for that job. He is also soothing and reliable. he could easily replace Charlie G.

    Thank yu much.
    Jayne age 54

    November 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  2. Bart Woolery

    Leaving aside that our efforts in Afghanistan are really best described as an "occupation" rather than a "war", we will eventually accomplish nothing because of three factors, any of which is sufficient by itself to guarantee failure:
    1) Most experts agree that you need a ratio of troops to civilians of 1:50. This requires 1/2 millions reliable (not Afghan) troops on the ground in country. This will never happen.
    2) The countries bordering Afghanistan provide safe haven for the insurgents.
    3) The local government is not widely supported.
    If we left today, only one thing would change. The insurgents would resume fighting amongst themselves rather than against us. I think this is a good thing, don't you? Oh, at least one more thing would change. Lisa would get her life back. That has got to be a good thing.

    November 3, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Virginia

    I understand both sides of the argument, should we stay or should we go, but I think people get confused about what "victory" means for this mission and how other people define freedom. For me to say what it would take to be victorious in either war means I understand why we actually are at war. So for people to say that we should stay in Afghanistan until we are victorious is an abstract idea that is rooted in nothing. I also think that people in America seem to think that other people around the world want to embrace our system of freedom and I don't think that's the case. The people of Afghanistan are so far from our modern reality that it's hard to comprehend. Most don't read, write, even have electricity or plumbing. The live their lives by rules of religion that shape everything they do. Besides, isn't it up to the people of Afghanistan to decide how they want to define themselves? Isn't that freedom?

    I am a military spouse and my husband spent 15 months in Afghanistan and did not come home the same man he left as. He has since been overseas on other missions and has not been home in the 4 years at our current duty station but for a few months. My daughter is 4 and barely knows her father. To say the separation is hard is putting it mildly. I know our military men and women take their jobs seriously, but it is just a job. I'm glad to see an administration give some deep thought to the situation instead of blindly reacting. I don't know if my marriage will make it or if this war will end soon but i do know that I'm proud of my husband and everyone that serves.

    November 3, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  4. Catherine T Woods

    i think congressmen are the dumbest people on earth tooand let the those afgans fight their own battles and get our troops out of ther and it is target p ractice for the taliban killers they are overjoyed to be killling American kids and lets send the guys in congress to fight there most of the do nothing senators too.ive seen wars sincse ww2and now our so called friends the french germans and all that garbage across the ocean hate us after wasting tons of money on them.Let me say again this government thinks americans are dumb and lets show them and fire them all

    Catherine T Woods

    November 3, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  5. Catherine T Woods

    I would like Tim Bishop to sponsor the Mc govern Bill and have It signed. I would like to have congressman John Boehner sponsor the Mc govern Bill and have It signed and also the Lee Bill.

    November 3, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  6. Sabrina Royal Oak,MI

    Well said and I agree more then 100%. Many do not realize the huge sacrifices and cost to the family as well as our nation. If we continue to stay over there, we may no longer have a nation of our own to protect. We blew our chance when we ignored the military pleas for more help and went to Iraq. Afghanistan is out of control now and the real problem behind it all, is drugs, that we cannot stop . Drugs /poppies being grown over there are not a real threat to our nation as much as the problems we are facing with the attacks on the American people from the now super powers that have grown thanks to the previous administration. Our being there was not pointless, our staying when we are no longer a big enough force and funds would be a bigger disaster and injustice. Killing our military and people over there over drugs is pointless. We need to come home, beaf up so to speak, and get the help from our neighbors if we have any left.

    November 3, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  7. Maria

    I definitely unstand your article and think its time for our troops to come home. My husband and I both deployed, unfortunately at different times. He is currently away and even though we are a strong couple, it is hard. The friends I have made who are spouses have to be strong as well. They have children who hardly know their deployed loved one, children who are depressed or act out in school because they don't get to see their soldier, spouses have to play the role of both parents, and like you said "live in a constant fear". There's only so much a spouse can do to stay busy (work, take up a few hobbies) but at the end of the day, a cold bed, and an empty heart is all we feel we have. I hate the fact that the soldiers have to pay for internet there, when it's not even 100% reliabe. The system will shut down for no reason, or if god forbid something happens, the military has to do a "blackout", and block internet and phone usage until families have been notified that their soldier has passed or been injured.
    There's a difference between supporting the war and supporting our troops. I don't believe making more sacrifices will help our families or the soldiers of our families. I'm extremely proud of my husband and our friends who are serving, but we also extend it to our friends who are our tour number 3...4..5 and have kids they barely see and a spouse that they are losing touch with.

    November 3, 2009 at 7:51 am |
  8. Fred Holmes

    Those in favor of the 'war' generally cite the desire to spread freedom and democracy to countries where both concepts are as alien as sliced bacon and baby-back ribs. I urge them to lay down their flags and take up their brains. If Afghans want democracy, let THEM fight to achieve it.

    Those who would have the United States re-evaluate its military and political positions vis-a-vis the moral imperatives incumbent upon a leader among First-World nations must unite to deny this government further aid and comfort in its ill-conceived, costly, unlawful and immoral intrusions in the affairs of Second and Third world countries and economies. There a numerous justifications for such act of defiance in the document we all purport to hold dear; our Constitution.

    November 3, 2009 at 7:48 am |
  9. Jerry

    I agree with Bill Mahre that the members of congress are the dumbest people on earth. When well we learn that you can' win a war in the middle east when the people there find it ok to kill each other. You may kill everyone in their armies but you can't kill a belief or a way of life.

    November 3, 2009 at 7:41 am |