05/28/2014 03:56 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

Obama's "Responsible End of War" Has Orwellian Ring

Another Memorial Day has passed. It's supposed to be a solemn occasion to honor our military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to this nation.

This year, as America remains entangled in the endless "war on terror," some of us took time out of our weekend to thank a growing number of new veterans who recently fought and died in places like Fallujah and Kandahar, as well as those who battled at Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir and Da Nang.

Sadly, while Americans observed Memorial Day in a traditional way, President Obama took the occasion to play new Orwellian semantics, redefining a sad chapter of failed war-making that characterized our defeat in Vietnam, and has been promulgated since the attacks on 9/11.

President Obama made a "secret" 33-hour trip to Afghanistan during Memorial Day weekend to "rally" some of the 32,000 troops still fighting one of those mismanaged conflicts.

Reflecting that his administration is planning America's second "end of war" scenario, Obama spoke at Bagram Air Base: "I'm here on a single mission, and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service," he said.

"For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan," he said. "And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete, and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our combat mission will be over. America's war in Afghanistan will to come to a responsible end."

How can you have a "responsible" end to a war that is hardly over, is fought alongside duplicitous allies, was undertaken for the wrong reasons, and was hampered by poor strategies and a vague purpose?

We don't truly fight wars anymore; we engage in "limited conflicts." Americans have become numb to continuous war and a lack of national fortitude to endure the large casualties and long commitment needed to achieve national security, worthy nation-building and democratic goals.

Because of that lack of commitment, American soldiers spill their blood in vain, in a perpetual, non-winnable war on terror.

Like Vietnam, American soldiers engage in battle without any chance of definitive victory.

At the same time Obama was giving his pep talk in Afghanistan, Iraqi forces were fighting to regain control over the city of Fallujah and the Babil province from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Iraq is another country where Obama brought a "responsible end" to U.S. military action.

Since the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq has tumbled back into a civil war among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. Thousands of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands are now refugees.

Remember in August 2010 when Obama declared the end of America's combat mission in Iraq? "Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility," he said.

The truth is that Iraq is no more secure, if not worse, for both Iraqis and Americans than it was when President Bush sent troops there to rid the country of Saddam Hussein.

So we have not learned from our failures in Vietnam or Iraq. While we continue to honor the sacrifices of our soldiers, our leaders are not held accountable for their failure to properly execute warfare that makes our country safer and the world more democratic and free from tyranny and terror.

In a few years, without the presence of a significant number of American troops in Afghanistan -- and a true nation-building plan to bring that country out of the grip of violent, primitive and theocratic rule -- that country will endure chaos and death too.

If there is one Memorial Day lesson for soldiers of recent "conflicts," it's not about ending them "responsibly." Instead when America starts a war, it should conduct it with purpose and finish it with victory.

Published in Context Florida on May 27, 2014

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary ( and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y. Column courtesy of Context Florida.