Memorial Days are never joyous times, for obvious reasons.
And this year, the occasion is especially dour for those of us who supported Barack Obama, not only for all the other reasons, but because we thought he was a peace candidate who would put an end to our misguided wars.
This week, the death toll for the U.S. military in Iraq reached nearly 4,300 since the invasion began in March 2003. While only about 65 have died since Obama took office, the violence of Iraqi against Iraqi has not subsided, spurred inevitably by our presence.
No matter whether we withdraw today or in two years, civil war or Iraqi military suppression will follow.
The president still plans to end our combat mission next year _ as promised during the campaign _ though two months later than he had proposed. But he also plans to leave 30,000 to 50,000 soldiers after the U.S. combat role supposedly ends.
If we have 40,000 troops in Iraq during a civil war or a suppression, how can we not be drawn into the fighting?
So far, it is difficult to notice much difference from the Bush-Cheney days. What could we expect, however, when Obama leaves Robert Gates in charge of defense.
OK, all our troops are supposed to out of Iraq by the end of 2011. You can imagine how many more troops and Iraqi civilians will be killed or maimed by then.
Why wait? In honor of Memorial Day, let's start bringing all of the soldiers home from Iraq now. The best way to honor the troops who have fallen in this and previous wars is to declare peace, to insist that the killing stop.
A campaign promise Obama is trying to fulfill, but shouldn't, is his so-called shifting focus to Afghanistan, which probably would be at peace now if Bush hadn't invaded Iraq.
But he did, and it isn't.
Now, we're rushing up to 60,000 more troops to Afghanistan to try to halt the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic nationalists who were allowing al-Qaida to train terrorists in their country before 9/11.
We bombed and invaded the country more than seven years ago, had much more international support and still haven't been able to unite the nation around the president we installed.
In fact, after all this time, the insurgent Taliban are resurgent. But more troops have never worked in Afghanistan. Not for the Russians. Not for the English. Not for anybody.
And now our failures to succeed in such a seemingly manageable task back in 2001 has led to yet another humanitarian crisis in Pakistan.
Our inability to settle the score one way or the other with the Taliban, who were allies in the 1980s, has pushed them into Pakistan. Fighting with the Pakistani military for control of the northwestern area has created about 1.5 million refugees.
A U.S. military official says as many as 250,000 Pakistani civilians could remain in refugee camps through the end of the year, a result of the fighting that has forced them from their homes.
Sure, we're sending aid, but our leaders apparently believe that sending tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan is going to solve the military problem _ and the humanitarian crisis.
What are we doing? Sitting around asking ourselves what Bush and Cheney would do?
Our legitimate mission in Afghanistan ran out of rope a long time ago. We had the world on our side and could have moved swiftly to end the link between the Taliban and al-Qaida. We blew it, and sending 60,000 troops now to try to right our political wrongs is not likely to be the answer.
Can we just pull out now and abandon the puppet government we set up, and also the buildup of refugees our failed efforts have spurred? Obviously, the joint chiefs and generals say ``no.'' And Obama is listening closely.
Geez, are we talking about Iraq or Afghanistan here? Do we abandon failed missions and leave civil wars and refugees behind wherever we tread?
It may seem that way, but the solution is to avoid the wars and interventions in the first place _ and now not dig ourselves a deeper hole with 60,000 more troops.
On this Memorial Day, let's honor our war dead by vowing to do whatever non-military action it takes to prevent more ultimate sacrifices in the future.
Cary Brunswick is managing editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at (607) 432-1000, ext. 217, or firstname.lastname@example.org.