One year since Afghanistan.
My art can be found on Instagram @klonskyart
August marks a year since President Biden ordered home the last American soldier from Afghanistan.
Critics of Biden called the withdrawal messy.
How could it have been otherwise?
My lasting memory of the war in Afghanistan is a conversation I had with a special education assistant at my school. She had arranged a job at our school for her grown son, back from several tours of duty in Afghanistan.
He was good with the kids.
One May day we were out on the playground as my students used up the last of the paints making sidewalk art - an annual end of the year tradition.
Her special ed charge was one the group.
Our conversation ended up talking about her son. She didn’t offer much detail about what she might have known of his Afghan war experiences.
Except this: “He was a sniper,” she told me staring off into the distance. “They turned my son into an effing sniper.”
In October of 2002 I was at an anti-war rally in the federal plaza in Chicago’s Loop.
Barack Obama was an Illinois senator at the time. In a speech against the Iraq War Obama said,
I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.
What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
President Obama insisted that unlike Iraq, the Afghanistan war was a smart war.
Still, he promised to end it.
On Dec. 28, 2014, U.S. and NATO officials held a ceremony at their headquarters in Kabul to mark the end of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.
In a statement, Obama called the day “a milestone for our country” and said the United States was safer and more secure after 13 years of war.
“Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” he declared.
U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan for seven more years.
Until we lost.
It was the longest war in our history. Longer than when Obama declared it the longest war and declared it over.
And it turned many mothers’ sons into effing snipers.