We now know, thanks to a Page 1 above-the-fold story, that highly trained, highly experienced special-operations Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, a native of Summerville, was killed in Afghanistan on July 12. We know that he was apparently on a mission for the CIA, but what we don’t know is why the CIA is fighting in that far-off country in the first place, after 17 years of an unwinnable war, and why it is using Army Rangers for its nefarious deeds.
The Rangers are the Army’s elite. Along with the Green Berets and Delta Force they make up the Army Special Operations Command, a force that is supposed to be deployed for highly secret and particularly difficult missions, often involving raids, psychological warfare and counter-terrorism. But it is hard to see why they should be used at the tail end of a war that has gone on for 17 years and that has no possibility of ending in victory anyway.
If the American public knew just how widely, clumsily and recklessly the Special Operations forces were being deployed, they would be outraged. Or should be. It has become an expression of American worldwide imperialism at a time when all wisdom (and public opinion) says we should be pulling back. It is putting American youth in difficult and life-threatening positions, sometimes with the effect of alienating rather than affiliating the locals, and it spends billions of dollars to no logical purpose.
I will venture to say that no one reading this knows that Special Operations forces were sent to no less than 149 countries in 2017 — there are only 193 states in the U.N. — without any formal authorization and no public announcement or explanation. So far this year there are missions in 133, according to the Special Operations Command — and only two of them are places where we actually acknowledge being in a war.
Some 63,000 special duty troops are now deployed, most in Africa and South Asia, where there are no declared wars, and the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Syria and who knows where else. The price tag for this year is $12.3 billion, which Congress gives almost blindly with very little oversight.
And as we are beginning to find out, over the Army’s reluctance, there are casualties. In the last two years there were four killed in Niger in a bungled operation, two in Somalia with missions involving both Green Berets and Navy SEALS, and now this tragedy in Afghanistan.
Some might find the official excuses for all of this convincing — we must fight terrorism wherever we find it, we must try to establish peace where we can, we must keep America safe. Bunkum. Our experience has been that we create more terrorism — ISIS for one sure example — than we ever come upon and defeat, we have not established peace anywhere we have been officially engaged (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen), and — just as in all the wars this country has fought since Vietnam — there is no threat of attack or invasion of U.S. soil by any of these countries.
We have gone out of our way to make trouble, and that’s all that we have made. And when it involves casualties, that’s a ridiculous price to pay.
It would be comforting to think that the people’s representatives might take a hand in ending our far-flung violent interferences and bringing the bulk of our fighters back from the 750 bases or so that we maintain around the world — as Donald Trump suggested he would do and as so many voters put him in office to do. But there is no sign that they are any better equipped to put a legislative hand to solve this problem than any other they have faced in recent years.
There will be no comfort for Sgt. Celiz’s family in that.
Kirkpatrick Sale, who lives in Mount Pleasant, is the author of 12 books, most recently “Human Scale Revisited,” published last year.