UNION — A veteran of the war in Afghanistan urged those attending Monday’s Memorial Service to question their members of Congress and other public officials about the “end game” for America’s longest war.
As it has for many years, American Legion Post 22’s Memorial Day Ceremony featured many of the traditions associated with Memorial Day including the lowering to half-staff of the American flag by the Union County High School JROTC; patriotic music including the singing of the National Anthem; the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America; and the placing of a wreath at a monument honoring those Union County residents who gave their all in the service of this country.
One change from previous years was that Monday’s ceremony was held at the Veterans Memorial Park Lodge in Foster Park rather than the War Memorial on Main Street in downtown Union. The change of location also meant that the wreath that would traditionally be placed at the War Memorial — which lists the names of Union County’s war dead from World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War — was instead placed at the memorial in front of the Veterans Memorial Park Lodge. That memorial consists of markers bearing the likenesses, names, branch of service, and date and place of death of the Union County residents killed in the Vietnam War.
Another change from previous years was that this year’s speaker, Senior Army Instructor Lt. Col. Clarence Bowser (Retired), asked those present to not only remember those who died in the wars of the past, but to also question the direction of the war America has been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001.
Bowser, who serves as JROTC Advisor at Dorman High School, began by introducing himself as “a Union native, a product of (the) Union County School System, and one who has served served this state during natural disasters and our nation in combat during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It is truly an honor for me to stand before you on this momentous occasion, as we remember the sacrifices of so many of our servicemen and women. On this Memorial Day, we pay respects to the fallen from past wars, including the more than one million American soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.”
It was the war in Afghanistan, how it has been conducted, and its direction, that was the main concern of Bowser who asked “What is the end game?”
Bowser began by pointing out that when “President Barack Obama took over the war against terrorists in Afghanistan,” a war that he said was “triggered by the 2001 Islamic terror attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000,” he (Obama) deployed “tens of thousands of additional American troops under extreme rules of engagement. I was one of those soldiers, deployed into the heart of the Taliban, Kandahar Province.”
The war that began with the 9/11 attacks has gone on for 16 years, which Bowser said makes it “the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.”
Bowser said that Obama “told the terrorists exactly when US troops would be withdrawn. And although he adjusted his plans over time, he fulfilled his commitment, eventually leaving behind a small number of Americans to train and advise Afghan military and police. It this an end game?”
That was the question Bowser asked those present to ask their members of Congress and other public officials concerned with the conduct of war and foreign policy about Afghanistan. He pointed out that, in addition to the soldiers killed and wounded in the fighting in Afghanistan, the United has spent more than $3 trillion there with no end game in sight.
“Regardless of your political affiliation, is it is fair or even fiscally or morally responsible to ask servicemen and women to continue to deploy with no defined strategy or end to this longstanding conflict?”
Bowser pointed out that a study of the situation in Afghanistan determined that American forces, supplemented by those from its NATO allies, while necessary, are “woefully insufficient to deliver lasting stability in the region.” He pointed out that the report, in response to President Donald Trump’s proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan and broaden the US mission there, stated that “to date, the United States has yet to develop and implement a joint strategy with the Afghans for bringing the war to a successful conclusion.”
Furthermore, Bowser said the report states that if the United States does not take action to correct this situation, Afghanistan could “once again descend into chaos,” a development which would ultimately harm America’s national security.
“Will the loss of lives there be for naught?” Bowser asked. “Will the countless servicemen and women permanently injured be for naught? Will the trillions of your tax dollars spent there be for naught?”
Bowser pointed out that such a vacuum that might result from Afghanistan’s descent back into chaos might enable terrorist groups from Al-Qaida to the Islamic State and others to plan and launch attacks against America and its allies. He pointed out that the report states that an “influx of additional forces might be better able to monitor, if not manage, terrorist groups and other threats using Afghanistan and the region as a safe haven.”
This brought Bowser back to the question he proposed at the beginning of his address, and he urged those in attendance to ask it.
“We deserve to know that our leaders have an end game!” Bowser said. “We should demand this no matter the political party. It’s our lives at stake, it’s our future families’ lives at stake and our tax dollars being thrown away and the current administration is talking about cuts to entitlements. We can do better, we must do better, you all deserve better. God bless you and God bless the USA.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.