Peace Activist: We Should Have Stayed

Today I’m just going to quote at length from an excellent story in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal about the reactions of Afghan war veterans to the disastrous U.S. pullout. The story was reported by Riley Vetterkind and Mitchel Schmidt. In fairness, their story did quote the father of one soldier who died in Afghanistan who said that he was glad that we were leaving, but the overall sentiment from him and from the others was a sense of sadness about it all and a questioning of what it all meant.

I thought this interview with a nurse who served in Afghanistan and has since become a peace activist was especially striking.

Frances Wiedenhoeft, 61, of Madison, said she decided to escape on a camping trip in recent days after feeling despair, and some survivor’s guilt, over the news of Afghanistan’s collapse. Wiedenhoeft served as a nurse anesthetist in Afghanistan in 2003 and in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, and her thoughts went first to the Afghan interpreters she worked with while there.

“I lived with female interpreters for part of the time that I was there. One of the women I know is safely in Lincoln, Nebraska. The other woman, I have no idea,” Wiedenhoeft said. “She could be there, she could be dead, she could be evacuated, she could be on the road somewhere.”

Wiedenhoeft said the Afghans she knew wanted the same thing as everybody else in the world, as she put it, “to make a living, put food on the table for their kids, have their children go to school and listen to them play in the yard in the evening.”

She said she understands better than anyone that America couldn’t be in Afghanistan forever, but particularly takes issue with the notion that the collapse of the Afghanistan government was inevitable. She blames missteps along the way and said the Afghan army was undernourished, underpaid and without enough ammunition, and faced a well-funded Taliban.

These 640 Afghans are safely aboard a U.S. Air Force cargo jet headed out of the country yesterday. How many will be left behind?

She said the U.S. withdrawal should have been conditional, rather than time-based. Wiedenhoeft said she viewed the mission in Afghanistan as doing good in the world by ousting the Taliban and trying to prevent their return.

Though she’s a peace activist, she supported continuing the mission there to help stabilize the country.

“I thought we owed it to the Afghan people to finish the mission, even if it took a little longer,” she said. “We went in, and we made promises. We helped raise a generation, almost two generations of Afghan people who were beginning to hope. So even as a peace activist, I thought we owed it to them to finish the mission.”

She said she supports greater efforts to help Afghans leave the country. She said she wants to remind people that Afghans are a peace-loving people, and that they’ve ruled their country successfully in the past.

This is the 182nd consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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