Killing the Kids that Don’t Need to Die

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Matt Sitton knew the war in Afghanistan was going badly. He knew it because he was fighting it. He could see for himself. Twenty-six years old, with a wife and child back home, Staff Sergeant Sitton was on his third combat tour there.

Time and again, he and his men were sent through what he called “a minefield on a daily basis.” His comrades were being blown apart — at least one amputee a day, he said, “Because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives.”

Morale was low; the men struggled to remain alert. Sitton said he asked his officers to give them a break but was told to stop complaining.

“I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when there is a desired endstate and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done,” he wrote. “But when we are told basically to just walk around for a certain amount of time is not sitting well with me.”

At home in Florida, Matt Sitton had attended a Christian school run by the Baptist church attended by Congressman Bill Young. He wrote Congressman Young and told him what was happening. “I’m concerned about the well-being of my soldiers,” he said. “… I just want to return my guys home to their families healthy.” He ended: “If anything, please pray for us over here. God bless.”

On August 2, while on patrol, Matt Sitton and a buddy were killed, blown apart by an IED, a hidden bomb. They flew Sitton’s body home and held his funeral at that same Baptist church.

For a long time before Matt Sitton died, Congressman Young, the longest serving Republican in the House, called for sticking it out in Afghanistan.  The powerful chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, he had helped continue the war by voting against an amendment requiring the President to set a timetable for withdrawal.

He’s changed his mind. Touched by what Matt Sitton wrote him, Young asked that the letter be read into the Congressional Record, and has been talking to other veterans, hearing from them what “a real mess” the war is. Now he tells the Tampa Bay Times: “I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can. I just think we’re killing the kids that don’t need to die.”

“I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can. I just think we’re killing the kids that don’t need to die.”
— Congressman Bill Young

Killing the kids that don’t need to die. Let those words sink in. And this, too: Congressman Young says many of his colleagues in Congress feel the same way he does, but “they tend not to want to go public.”

A few days ago, just shy of the 11th anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan, we marked a sad and tragic milestone: the 2000th member of the American armed forces to die in combat there. There are now 68,000 American men and women in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 as President Obama has ended the surge he first ordered in late 2009. Seventeen thousand Americans have been wounded, and in the last five years alone, according to the UN, more than 13,000 Afghan civilians have died. That’s a very conservative estimate.

How can we continue to justify this war begun to avenge the 9/11 attacks and punish those responsible, but now too long, too deadly, too mired in waste and corruption in a land that has resisted the ambitions of empire since the ancient Persians and Macedonians?

“Look at it this way,” journalist Dexter Filkins recently wrote in The New Yorker. “After eleven years, more than four hundred billion dollars spent and two thousand Americans dead, this is what we’ve built: a deeply dysfunctional, predatory Afghan state that seems incapable of standing on its own — even when we’re there.”

There are two more presidential debates. They will be yet another hoax unless someone puts to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney the same question asked by Congressman Young: “Why are we killing the kids that don’t need to die?” And then asks it again and again to each of them until we get an honest answer.

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  • Stephanie Banks

    And yet why do our politicians continue to promote American democracy and values as worthy imports, while at home we have unchecked and mounting gun murders, currents of racism, increasing abject poverty, a poor educational system or citizens who don’t value education, a dysfunctional government run by the minds of third graders and certainly not mature, rational adults, instead concentrating on destroying Obama’s presidency, therefore creating roadblocks to responsible governance.. We rush to war and destruction, mindless of the broken infrastructure which people depend on, and insensitive to the deaths of innocents in these foreign countries. I’m not proud to import these policies or cultural attitudes.

  • Anonymous

    You have really got it muddled this time Moyers. These soldiers are not “kids.” Calling them that makes them seem innocent, when they are not. They volunteered to go to war under war presidents. No surprises. The real “kids” in Afghanistan that don’t need to die are the 4- and 5- years olds who are being blown up everyday by the MEN in the US military.

  • james cowan

    What difference does it make? None. Deaths at the behest of the very few and powerful. Actually, I take that back. There is a difference. Americans do not care about innocent people, including the 4 and 5 year olds being blown to bits by our US “men”. We’ve proven that with our indifference to these illegal wars. Some call it desensitization, some call it apathy, in the end, who cares. We only respond to what’s in front of our faces. One of very few bargaining chips we (those of us who demand and end to our military occupations) have is the highlighting of casualties of US troops. Very sadly, this is only what hits home. We’ve begun to see the negative effects these wars are having on our folks, in this country, upon their return and the years after. It will only get worse.

    There is no preparation for loss of life and limb for an absent cause. There is no preparation for the meaningless killing of so many. Whether you believe the troops signed up for war is irrelevant. And it certainly does not warrant a free pass to those at the top calling the shots. President Obama and Mr Romney MUST answer these questions: The president MUST be held accountable. Congress MUST be held accountable. Yes, these wars are illegal under the constitution, but Congress holds the sole power of finance. If they wanted to end these occupations they could’ve done it years ago.

    Increasing death tolls and war propaganda. These are the answers we’re fed. These are the answers we’ve become accustomed to. These are the answers we accept.

  • Zora Renee

    Thank you, I too would like to know what is our “end-game” and when will it end? The US is always promoting “democracy” abroad, how about WE have a bit of “democracy on the US home-front”?! We already have one of our political candidates threatening Iran, and a Congress that’s intent on not really funding our troops, but are all-hot for “Defense” spending – code-words for “Contractors bilking the government”! And yet all I hear are crickets when it really comes to “supporting our troops”!!

    WAR IS HELL – and the next time a politician thinks about taking “America’s children to war” – I hope that we all remember and fight like hell to keep our children from going!

  • TerrysaGirl

    “We’re killing the kids that don’t need to die”? Which kids DO need to die. Those outside his district?