No ‘They died in vain’ rhetoric

By John Kanelis /

Forgive me if I am getting ahead of myself, but I want to lay down an important marker while the world watches the Taliban take control of Afghanistan provincial capital by provincial capital.

If the worst comes true and the Taliban seize control of the Afghan government, I am going to predict we’re going to hear critics of President Biden’s decision to pull our forces off the battlefield say something akin to this:

“Our young men and women we lost in that war will have died in vain.” 

Can you hear it, too? Of course you can.

I want to say that no matter how this tragedy ends that none of our gallant and brave warriors died “in vain” on the Afghan fields of battle. They died while fighting terrorist monsters who used Afghanistan as a safe haven while they plotted attacks against us. Those attacks culminated in what occurred on 9/11.

Indeed, the “died in vain” mantra we likely will hear from right-wing critics of President Biden’s decision denigrates the service of the thousands of young Americans who perished in defense of our nation and in defense of the Afghan people.

We heard after the Vietnam War that the 58,000 young Americans who died in that conflict did so “in vain.” It enraged me when I heard it then. I lost colleagues in that war. Their deaths, while tragic, occurred as they were upholding the oath they took when they joined the military. That oath compelled them to follow lawful orders and to defend the nation against our enemies.

That is in no way “dying in vain!”

Nor did the Americans who died in Afghanistan die “in vain.” They died heroically and with honor. That is how they must be remembered.