Soldier's death raises questions about Afghan war

Athens, Ohio. Population 21,342.

Beaver Dam, Wis. 14,983.

Peru, Maine. 1,515.

Quartz Hill, Calif. 9,626.

Senoia, Ga. 3,720.

Tell City, Ind. 7,473.

Six small towns, stretched from one side of the country to the other, shared a common agony this week — the death of a young hometown hero.

At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, 24-year-old Pvt. Buddy W. McLain came home in a flag-draped coffin from a war 6,000 miles from where he was known and loved.

In nearby Rumford, a black band of mourning was stretched across a patriotic shield bearing McLain's name in a public ceremony.

Soon, McLain will be buried in a cemetery near his home.

Five other American communities were no doubt honoring their young men in their own ways.

It has been observed before that the burdens of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been disproportionately borne by rural Americans.

The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2000 that two-thirds of Americans live in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and 84 percent live within metropolitan areas with more than 50,000 people.

Yet, an Associated Press study in 2007 found that nearly half of the U.S. military fatalities came from hometowns of fewer than 25,000 people. One in five came from towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.

Of the six soldiers killed with Buddy McLain last week, only one came from a small town within a larger urban area.

The AP analysis also found that three-quarters of those killed came from towns where the per-capita income was below the national average.

Clearly, diminished employment opportunities account for part of the reason rural residents enlist in the military.

But military tradition and patriotism may also run deeper in small-town America.

Since 2001, 51 Mainers have given their lives in either Afghanistan or Iraq. They have come from northern and southern Maine, from Down East and Central Maine. Seven have come from the Sun Journal readership area, Western Maine. Many were on their second or third tours of duty.

McLain's death has raised questions about the direction of the mission in Afghanistan.

He and the other five soldiers were killed when an Afghan police trainee fired upon them from behind.

Chelsea, McLain's widow, told the Sun Journal last week that Buddy had questioned the wisdom of training the Afghan recruits. "He said he didn't think it was right to train these people and give them guns," she told the Sun Journal.

The revelation is particularly disturbing in light of confidential U.S. State Department cables made public this week showing rampant corruption in the Afghan leadership, including bribery, skimming from U.S. contracts and drug dealing.

Other reports show millions of dollars pouring into the country from U.S. enemies, and Afghan officials shipping millions out, sometimes in suitcases.

The cost of this war continues to mount, about $6 billion per month in Afghanistan alone. The two wars are estimated to have added about $1 trillion to the nation's nearly $14 trillion national debt.

But the real cost is the pain and sacrifice felt by Americans across the U.S.: Soldiers separated from their wives, children and families for multiple tours of duty. Soldiers left with severe physical and emotional injuries. And, the loved ones lost by the thousands of families across the U.S.

The real questions Maine's congressional delegation should be asking are simple:

Is this war winnable?

Is it worth the horrible price we're paying?

Let's be sure, or let's come home.

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Jerome Young's picture

I don't know Veritas,

I don't know Veritas, although I am usually reluctant to respond to any of your posts. Have you read, "Bernard fall" or Dean Achison's "There at the Beginning" or "Chicken Hawk"? Or "Churchill at War"? Do you know about Ho Chi Min? Can you tell me about "Brute Krulak" and the Vietnam war? I fully understand your views, it just seems slanted to support your opinion rather than remarking on history.
My opinion is, GW Bush made exactly the right decision going into Iraq, the engagement (like our current president) was so poorly executed that our occupation took waay longer than it should have.
In terms of Afghanistan, we shouldn't be there. It's a disaster. If we hadn't gone into Iraq and just diminished the Taliban in Afghanistan, we would have Iran sending bags of cash into Afghanistan, and we would have had Saddam sending cash there also.
I say, we are done being the worlds policemen and women, we need to pull back ALL military bases, including Europe, take the savings and pay off our debt, which is the BIGGEST national secuirty issue we have. Then, once a year, fly over Afghanistan and FIRE bomb the fields of poppies. (heroin) These duplicitous middle east gov't s are not worth one hair on our kids heads.

RONALD RIML's picture

Do I know about "Ho Chi Minh?"

Contrary to what you write - my opinion on him is based upon history.

That wasn't his real name, of course, as you would know. And he certainly wasn't a Communist - but rather a Vietnamese 'Nationalist' who wished to free Vietnam from French Colonialism in the early 20th century as we had freed ourselves from British Colonialism in the later 18th. We couldn't do it alone then - needing powerful allies such as the French - which Nguyen Ai Quoc (later Ho Chi Minh) realized. He sent a communication to President Wilson before the Versailles Peace Talks in Paris, 1919, in hopes that America would assist (you know "Making the World safe for Democracy" and all that) - Wilson never replied. He obviously wasn't going to piss in the French punch-bowl. That left the Socialists and thge Communists - the rest is History. Of course it can be fleshed out so much more. He did work for the CIA during WW-II, but the Japanese were a bigger enemy that had to be routed out. See - the Vietnam War goes back so much earlier than Truman and Eisenhower.

The natives just aren't too hot about being colonized (or administered) any longer, are they.... So what have you read of Gertrude Bell??? What did she do that others didn't??

 's picture

Is this winnable? Ask the Russians,

Because they would know the answer. They were in Afghanistan for 10 years and had to get out when it became clear that it was not. Their version of our war in Vietnam, with the same results. We're repeating our own military history.
We're fighting an ideology that can't be defeated at the point of a gun.

RONALD RIML's picture

Read - don't Watch - but Read - "Charlie Wilson's War" by

George Crile. It gives fabulous insight into how our CIA assisted the Afghans in taking down the Russians. It wouldn't have happened without massive U.S. assistance and Billions of Dollars during the Reagan Administration. We were buying weapons from practically everyone imaginable that weren't traceable back to the U.S. - including Communist China - and arming the Mujahadeen with them to fight the Soviets. We eventually gave them 'Stinger' missiles for anti-air combat.

Guess who's attacking us now? Yep - the Mujahadeen....... one of their former leaders being Osama bin Ladin.

Life's a beech and then you die.

RONALD RIML's picture

Vietnam now doing quite well despite War, Communism, etc...

Vietnam now has the world's 26th largest GDP, and the fastest growing economy in Asia. Though it has had to contend with the ravages of "The American War," Communist regulation, and the effects of the American trade embargo up to 1994, Vietnam has become a thriving country with as many as half a million former refugees returning every year. Vietnamese students some to America to work during the summer (one of who I am very familiar with, and whose Grandfather fought in the "American War")

Here's a decent article detailing what is going on today - it's much too long to copy here.

Vietnam's economy lures some who left in the 1970s


RONALD RIML's picture


armymom - What's the European Association of Urology have to do with any of this????

If you're still hung up on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - They are absolutely hemorrhaging oil, and we're going broke buying it from them. And it took Germany and Japan more than a 'few short years'

"Made in Japan" used to be synonymous with "This is a piece of crap"

RONALD RIML's picture

God, armymom, you are a case......

'Summer Jobs' is exactly what it implies.

You go to school at home in Vietnam during the school year - come to Maine to work during the tourist season, then return to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) when University resumes during the fall.

You do know what 'University' is???


Another question we should

Another question we should ask is: What happens after we leave even if we do win the war? Will the country revert to its old ways? Many of these third world countries are so accustomed to graft and corruption that things cannot change. It is not worth the price in human lives and sufferring we are paying. We need a President and a Congress that can accept this fact. We also need a strong military and intelligence department to make certain that 911 is never repeated.

RONALD RIML's picture

DW - Your claim that losing countries come out way ahead..

...didn't do a heck of a lot for Mexico after the U.S. - Mexico War of 1846-48.

We invaded Mexico and after the war, by treaty, took land which is now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming - giving Mexico about $18 Million - about half of what we offered them before we invaded. Sort of a 'leveredged buy-out.' We purchased another 32,000 square miles of land which is now part of southern Arizona and New Mexico in 1853 in what is known as the Gadsden Purchase.

Of course, as anyone in the military knows - "Payback is Hell" - and Mexicans are migrating to the lands which used to be Mexico by the Millions - whether authorized by the U.S. or not. That's what happens with "Invasions" sometimes.......

RONALD RIML's picture

So who in History has ever won in Afghanistan...

and established a stable, long-term functioning government where they were not eventually driven out ?

Remember. He who has not studied history is doomed to repeat it.

OK - Your turn.

RONALD RIML's picture

So, today you're driving a Green Edsel???

How did we both come up with those ideas????

RONALD RIML's picture

Vietnam not resolved????

Better look again, armymom. It was even safe enough for George Bush to finally go to. And if you check my other posting here, half a million former refugees are returning every year.

And when did we go to war with the United Arab Emirates?? Care to provide some links to that one?

P.S. The Middle East isn't Germany and Japan. Can you spell O-I-L? We are the ones who will be in misery due to our addiction to that commodity.

Afghanistan doesn't surrender - Why?? It's not a 'Nation' - it's tribal. They'de never reach agreement.

Damn - you do have an acute way of displaying your total lack of global understanding.

RONALD RIML's picture

To clarify

I understand Afghanistan is a 'country' - yet it is not a 'nation' insomuch as there is no Afghan 'nationality' - it is made up of many different tribes with with differing and competing interests - they ally or fight among themselves depending upon the circumstances.


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