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Afghanistan and Euphemisms: Our Troops Deserve Better

The past few months we’ve witnessed the creation and spread of a new euphemism: “green on blue violence.” Like most euphemisms, its goal is to mislead the reader or the listener and, thus, prevent him or her from asking inconvenient questions. In this instance, the inconvenient questions concern what exactly the U.S. is hoping to accomplish in Afghanistan.

The phrase “green on blue” refers to the disturbing propensity of Afghan soldiers and policemen to turn their American-supplied weapons on American servicemen, including the Americans who trained them.

There have been 30 such attacks this year, resulting in the death of 45 Americans. Stated differently, one in every seven American deaths in 2012 has been at the hands of someone who was supposed to be on our side.

You don’t have to be Douglas MacArthur to understand that there’s something wrong with this picture. Both the New York Times and Washington Post reported that some training programs have been suspended while American officials try to figure out a better way to screen Afghan applicants before providing them with guns and Americans to shoot them at.

Yet these same officials insist that “current partnered operations have and will continue” and that “we have full trust and confidence in our Afghan partners.”

Listeners of a certain age might be experiencing a sense of “déjà vu all over again.” Actually, you don’t have to be old enough to remember the Vietnam War to understand that a “vote of confidence” such as this one is nearly always spoken while staring at the sign marked “exit.”

It’s especially the case in Afghanistan, where the United States has already declared its intention to remove troops no later than the end of 2014.

While training Afghan military and law-enforcement personnel and expressing “confidence” in their abilities and friendship may be a necessary part of “saving face,” it’s fair to ask, “At what cost?”

It is a cost that neither presidential candidate has yet addressed. In fact, outside of the political conventions, you would be hard-pressed to find examples of their saying the word “Afghanistan.”

But if our troops are brave enough to serve in places like Afghanistan, our “leaders” should be brave enough to tell them and us why they are still there — especially since trusting their ostensible allies can cost our soldiers their lives!

Whatever our original goals may have been, they have long since mutated into nation-building: an attempt to re-create Afghan society in our own image. Chuck Colson saw this and rightly argued that the war in Afghanistan lacked the kind of achievable goals that a truly just war requires. As Chuck often reminded us, Christian scholars, theologians and statesmen have long held that for a war to be truly just, there must be a reasonable prospect for success. But what is success in Afghanistan? It’s a question that must be answered.

This is another example of how our political decisions require thoughtful moral reasoning, not just pragmatic posturing — something I will be discussing this weekend on BreakPoint This Week. You can hear the broadcast on radio or at

But you may be wondering what you can do to help. The father of one of these service members wrote us and asked us to pray. He asked that listeners do what they can to show our troops are not forgotten. Is there a service member in your church or neighborhood deployed overseas? Send a care package. Our listener assured us that it would be most appreciated. Come to, click on this commentary, and we’ll share some of his ideas.

And let’s press our presidential and congressional candidates to give us reasons, not euphemisms. Let’s insist that American men and women not be put in harm’s way unless there are clearly-defined and compelling national interests at stake. I can’t think of a better way to support our troops.

As the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, John Stonestreet provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: September 7, 2012

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