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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about the broad philosophical questions spurred by the end of the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan. Should we have gone to war to begin with? What was it for? Did we succeed? In what ways? What’s our responsibility, as a large (if challenged!) democracy, to support the stability of other democracies around the world?

Of course, it is easy to ask these kinds of questions from the sidelines, and easy to have opinions about what their answers should be. But that approach also unfairly simplifies what is a complex part of our recent history. 

All this is why I enjoyed contributing to and reading the cover story in this week’s print edition of the Weekly—in which Weekly staff spoke with a diverse group of local veterans and peace activists and asked for their reflections on the unsettling and messy end to the war in Afghanistan. 

In it, we hear from U.S. Army veteran Adriana Samson, who can’t help but think about the U.S. military death toll—both overseas and, too often, back home. U.S. Army veteran Jack Murphy and his wife, Jennifer Bleiker-Murphy, say good things were accomplished during those 20 years, but support the decision to withdraw. “I have a son and a daughter and I wouldn’t want to see them going back to daddy’s stomping grounds, no,” Murphy says. 

There are also interviews with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Joel Pablo, who lost a close friend in Afghanistan; U.S. Air Force veteran Adam Errahebi and U.S. Navy veteran (and current U.S. Congressman) Jimmy Panetta, both of whom are thinking a lot about what the United States now owes to our Afghan partners; Peace activist Catherine Crockett who criticizes the defense industry profiteering during the war; and Afghan activist Gharsanay Ibnul Ameen Amin who feels hopeful for the future, despite the current chaos.

“It’s important for the world to know that the new generation is very different,” the 22-year-old says. “They are equipped with critical thinking and they are questioning religious, social and cultural norms around them.”

There are some common themes in the stories people tell: Sadness comes to mind, and so does care and optimism. But there’s a lot that’s unique too—fitting for such a complex topic. We hope you’ll read it.

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