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Afghanistan vet: “We persist in building these bases”

Posted by Lisa -

Wed, Aug 31, 2011

Bring Our War $$ Home

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Veterans of the war on Afghanistan and their families are touring the U.S. right now, bringing out some of the truth that is said to be the first casualty of war.

Widow Ashley Joppa-Hagemann electrified us with the story of her husband’s suicide. Army Staff Sargeant Jared August Hagemann killed himself in June “to free himself from the pain, and from the Rangers” after seven years and seven deployments, and a PTSD diagnosis. Ashley described how Jared would drink heavily before each deployment because “he wanted to distance himself, numb himself from what he was going to do.” When he began threatening to kill himself he stated to other members of the Army Rangers, “Get away from me. I quit.” He had been forcibly discharged from the hospital after he referred himself for mental health issues, according to Ashley, who now cares for their two young children without a dad.

Ashley blames the Rangers for Jared’s death, claiming that they minimized his condition, pressuring him to stay in the unit,  and telling him to stay on base and stay away from his wife even as he repeatedly threatened suicide. She is angry that they would not hold a memorial because they wanted to keep the media away. Some of that anger showed Aug. 27 when she was dragged out of a book signing for war criminal Donald Rumsfeld after handing him a copy of Jared’s funeral program and saying he joined the Army because he believed Rumsfeld’s lies.

Afghanistan Veterans Against the War currently touring East coast cities should be deluged with media attention, but the talk at NYU I watched live on the IVAW-TV channel August 30 was sparsely reported in the mainstream press. The audio quality made it difficult to hear clearly, so I never caught the name of the third vet appearing with Brock McIntosh and Jacob George, and it was hard to tell which of the three was speaking at times. The men were reporting back on their tours of duty but also on a recent trip with a U.S. delegation for nonviolence. According to AVAW’s blog: “Their mission was twofold: to gain a greater understanding of ordinary Afghans’ needs, fears, and desires for their country, and to discover ways U.S. activists can support indigenous nonviolent efforts to reach those goals.”

They described their perception that the U.S. has been negotiating for about two years for a ceasefire with the Taliban, with the latter insisting any deal hinges on the U.S. removing its military bases. “But we persist in building these bases.” Now word is that Taliban negotiators may have conceded the point and are demanding tanks, missiles and other weapons be supplied to them. These young vets are cynical enough about their own government to suspect that such a deal may be brokered.

Why would the U.S. military arm its own opponents? Follow the money. Democracy Now! reported this week under the headline Pentagon Use of No-Bid War Contracts Balloons to $140 Billion:

The Pentagon’s use of no-bid contracts has tripled since the United States was attacked on 9/11, in spite of promises to reform the controversial practice. According to a new investigative report from the Center for Public Integrity, no-bid spending has ballooned from $50 billion in 2003 to $140 billion in 2011. In addition… the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan is preparing to release a report showing that one in every six contracting and grant dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan has been wasted, totaling some $30 billion lost.

While many in the U.S. continue to believe the lie from those elected on campaign contributions from war contractors — that we must fight “terrorists” abroad to keep our own citizens safe at home — I hope that economic distress will force us to admit that occupying Afghanistan indefinitely is unaffordable. As vets and their families continue to speak out, the public may be ready to stop construction at Bagram and other bases, and all our voices are needed to amplify the call: bring our war dollars home NOW!

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