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16 years ago the United States responded to an act of bar­barism against the U.S. by entering into a con­flict that would become an even greater tragedy. Because of the unfor­get­table loss of nearly 3,000 innocent cit­izens of nearly 60 coun­tries, as well as the coura­geous first responders trying to save them, the Bush admin­is­tration decided to throw some of the best the United States had to offer at what was ulti­mately a futile endeavor — an under­taking con­tinued by his two suc­cessors.

That initial decision was made con­crete through the Autho­rization for Use of Mil­itary Force, an act that should terrify any pro­ponent of small gov­ernment – – pre­sumably an over­whelming majority of those asso­ciated with this college.

The AUMF puts absolutely no lim­i­tation on what kind of force can be used, as well as when and where it can be used. It allows the pres­ident to make the final decision regarding con­nec­tions between ter­rorist groups and their involvement in 9/11, as well as how, when, and where they will be engaged.

Sub­scribers to the political thought of the Founding must oppose the War in Afghanistan and the AUMF on prin­ciple –  – if they are con­sistent; or they must at least be in favor of ending the AUMF and a renewal of debate on the war in Con­gress. If not, then they are just virtue sig­naling and paying advan­ta­geous lip service.

The men and women that vol­un­tarily choose to serve in the armed forces are, without doubt, excep­tional. They are willing to enter into a service that could  ask for their lives in the per­for­mance of duty. And their reward is that the gov­ernment throws them at an ide­o­logical and intan­gible enemy whose ranks are replen­ished because we keep fighting.

Our vet­erans have had their youth robbed. They have had their patri­otism and sense of service exploited by their gov­ernment. And they have given their limbs and lives for a war that, at this point, lacks a just cause.

This is not to triv­i­alize the tragedy. Over 5,000 men and women who chose to do what    their fellow cit­izens chose not to do. This is simply a recog­nition that, to the U.S. gov­ernment, those 5,000 men are simply means to maintain the country’s interest in oil and nation building.

For the first time in our nation’s history, the U.S. is fighting a war in which the children of the first men to land in Afghanistan can legally fight there them­selves. Same war. Same fam­ilies. Same failures.

Believing beyond reason that their deaths are always jus­tified and worth some­thing does not honor members of the mil­itary. It is dis­hon­orable to send war­riors to die for worthless causes. Trying to find jus­ti­fi­cation for the loss of our nation’s youth in the Middle East does not do any­thing to help the dead but ending the wars can help the living.

With the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, shouldn’t that mandate be com­plete? If our global mil­itary presence is truly in response to 9/11 then con­grat­u­la­tions, “mission accom­plished.”  We accom­plished it six years ago. There is no estab­lished end for the renewed war in Afghanistan, not that the AUMF had an end orig­i­nally.

Perhaps those who respond with righteous indig­nation and anger to the position that our dead sol­diers — who are as much victims of the Global War on Terror as NYC fire­fighters were victims of 9/11 — are simply insecure in their position of support for the war and an una­mended AUMF. The more obstinate they are in the face of these facts the more they probably wish they were not so.

James Madison said in the National Gazette that there are two types of wars: those declared by the arbi­trary will of gov­ernment and those willed by society. According to the most recent polling data on the War in Afghanistan, our longest running war is also our most unpopular. Support for the war in Afghanistan dipped below 20 percent in 2013, according to a CNN poll, and a 2017 Politico poll shows only 23 percent of Amer­icans believe the U.S. is winning in Afghanistan.

The first responders of NYC that were at ground zero were genuine heroes per­forming real and mean­ingful acts of heroism. The real tragedy of America’s history with the War on Terror is not 9/11. It’s the vet­erans who will­ingly gave their lives unnec­es­sarily and those who con­tinue to do so.