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Forget 2011: Troops Won't Return from Afghanistan Before 2014.

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US Soldier funeral at arlington

A caisson team carries the casket of U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Mace during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery October 19, 2009 in Virginia. Mace was killed October 3 along with seven other U.S. soldiers in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Here’s what we get in exchange: Last month the war entered its 10th year. So far this year, 431 U.S. soldiers have been killed, by far the highest tally of any year since 2001, for a total of 1,378 American soldiers killed. Last year’s total: 317. The war’s evolution has the grim distinction of annually breaking the record of US soldiers’ deaths nine years in a row. Add to that the soldiers killed from NATO and other allied countries, and the tally rises to 2,203. Add the Afghan tally, which registers barely or not at all in most Americans’ idea of the war, and we’re into the tens of thousands, with nothing gained and less settled: The Taliban controls most of the country. The US and NATO militaries are pulling off isolated, tactical victories, but they’re not altering the overall equation. There’s no victory here–not one to preserve, certainly not one that can be gained.

That was true in 2001. It’s been true since, with no let-up except in cavernous illusions whenever it’s time to pony up more billions and more troops, and whenever the elected have to pander to veterans with those words of respect so insultingly at odds with the reality of the country’s contempt for its troops. True, returning soldiers aren’t being spat on at airports. They’re being applauded. They’re being invited to schools and honored in church. But that’s more vile than the spitting, because it amounts to a celebration of indifference: Thank you for fighting and dying over there, wherever that may be. Now don’t bother us with details. Facebook status updates beckon.

The economy’s been outsourced. Why not the war? “So I want all of you to know when you come home your country is going to be there for you,” Obama told those prop soldiers in Seoul. “That is the commitment I make to you as Commander-in-Chief. That is the sacred trust between the United States of America and all who defend its ideals.” There’s an even more sacred trust: those soldiers’ lives, whose loss demeans the very ideals Obama claims to be defending.

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