Local Commentary

Editorial: Biden on the Human Cost of War

President Joe Biden’s stirring remarks on the occasion of the official end to the 20-year-long U.S. war in Afghanistan Tuesday were generally overlooked by the media but will endure in the nation’s legacy and history books maybe forever.

As the only president among the four who oversaw that war who had a child in the conflict, President Biden concluded his speech with an emotional and impassioned critique of the human costs of an indefinite continuation of the war, even as “low grade war.”

“I refuse to continue a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interests of our people. And most of all, after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan…after 20,744 American servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week, I refuse to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan.

“We’ve been a nation too long at war. If you’re 20 years old today, you’ve never known an America at peace…I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the one percent of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.

“Maybe it’s because my deceased son Beau served in Iraq for a full year. Before that, well — maybe it’s because of what I’ve seen over the years as a senator, vice president and president traveling those countries. A lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell. Deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families, missed birthdays, anniversaries, empty chairs at holidays, financial struggles, divorces, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress.

“We see it in the struggles many have when they come home. We see it in the strain on their families and caregivers. We see it in the strain of their families when they’re not there. We see it in the grief borne by their survivors. The cost of war they will carry with them their whole lives.

“Most tragically, we see it in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war can ever be low grade, low risk or low cost: eighteen veterans, on average, who die by suicide every single day in America. Not in a far-off place, but right here in America.

“There’s nothing low grade or low risk or low cost about any war. It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan. As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it’s time to look for the future, not the past. To a future that’s safer, to a future that’s more secure. To a future that honors those who’ve served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called ‘their last full measure of devotion.’

“I give you my word with all of my heart. I believe this is the right decision.”