withdrawn the last of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending a
senseless, 20-year war that should not have been waged, and the
reasons why America was there in the first place is anyone’s
guess. The chaotic
of U.S. retreat from the capital city of Kabul - as American
personnel and their Afghan helpers
are airlifted out of that country as quickly as the Taliban has taken
it over - remind some people of the fall of Saigon,
when People’s Army of Vietnam, also known as the Viet Cong,
took control of South Vietnam.
parallels between America’s entanglements in Vietnam and
Afghanistan are clear, especially as far as Black people are
concerned. While the war in Vietnam was promoted during the Cold War
era as a fight for democracy and against Communism, that war was more
than extending rights to Brown people thousands of miles away.
lost their lives, and for what?
his freedom and livelihood when he refused to go to Vietnam on
religious grounds, because he could not understand why he should go
shoot poor, dark-skinned people who never called him n****r and never
were connecting dots between the war in Vietnam and civil rights and
poverty at home. The war machine undermined President Lyndon
war on poverty. Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
out against that war,
and many in the civil rights community turned their backs on him for
it. King broke his silence, calling Vietnam “a white man’s
war, a Black man’s fight.”
were taking the Black young men who had been crippled by our society
and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in
Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East
Harlem,” Dr. King said, noting that Black and white boys that
could not attend school together were killing and dying for America
in Vietnam. And he saw the Vietnam war as “an enemy of the
poor,” a war that devastated the hopes of poor people and sent
the poor to fight.
seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor - both
Black and white - through the poverty program. There were
experiments, hopes, new beginnings,” King added. “Then
came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and
eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society
gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the
necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as
adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money
like some demonic destructive suction tube.”
to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the wars that followed in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and once again, we saw Black people and the poor serving
their country, sustaining injuries and dying at disproportionate
levels to fight for “democracy” when they are
hard-pressed to find democracy at home.
one member of Congress, Rep. Barbara
- a Black woman - had opposed
the resolution authorizing military force following 9/11,
paving the way for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. “As
we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore,” Rep.
arguing that U.S.
would mean many more innocent men, women and children would die as a
price tag - $300
million a day
for two decades straight - the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a bonanza
for the war industry, the military contractors and those who peddle
in weaponry. Over those 20 years, 2,448
U.S. soldiers and 3,846 contractors
were killed, and over 200,000 wounded, many permanently disabled. The
Afghan people paid a heavy price, with 47,245 civilian deaths, over
66,000 military casualties and 51,191 Taliban deaths.
trillion went somewhere,
but not to provide everyone universal healthcare, end homelessness,
or hunger. The money did not go to the thousands of military families
who are food
of military of active military who qualify for food stamps, and the
of active duty and reserve personnel who sought aid from food
pantries even years before the pandemic hit. And one study
found that 27% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffered
from food insecurity, with Black, Latinx and other vets of color
experiencing the highest rates of hunger.
President Biden’s historic decision to increase the
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
by 25% – coinciding with the troop pullout from Afghanistan -
stands to benefit those suffering soldiers whose stomachs are empty.
those Black soldiers and veterans of the Afghan war - some
impoverished and hungry while serving Uncle Sam, and no doubt
traumatized for what they have experienced and what they may have
done to other human beings - do not enjoy secure or guaranteed voting
rights in the land of the free.
is not the only unstable country here. The Taliban may have taken
Kabul, but the White Taliban here at home is at war against democracy
and coming for Black folks’ ballots. And that is an outrage.
commentary was originally published by The