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Robert Higgs
By Robert Higgs July 23, 2010

Rep. Dennis Kucinich says war in Afghanistan now America's longest

Rep. Dennis Kucinich wants the United States out of Afghanistan. In a statement on his website he decries the costs, both monetary and human, in a war that has passed too many milestones.
 
"The War in Afghanistan is officially the longest war Americans have ever been asked to endure." he says in the statement.
 
The greatests casualties, he says, are children of the world "for whom war becomes as ordinary as the sunrise." They pay for the war in hunger, poor health, poor housing, and a lack of education as resources are spent on the war.
 
We thought we'd look at the congressman's statement and see how the War in Afghanistan compares with America's other wars.
 
In terms of casualties, there's no comparison. The death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 at the end of May with the death of Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, a Texas Marine serving his second overseas tour. The war in Iraq has seen more than four times as many deaths.
 
The Civil War remains America's deadliest, with more than 600,000 deaths. More than 400,000 died in World War II.
 
Answering which war is longest is more art then science. 
 
James Bradford, a Texas A&M historian, told us previously that the American Revolution may have begun with the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) -- or earlier, with the breakout of hostilities at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Meanwhile, the end of the war could have been the the British surrender at Yorktown (Oct. 17, 1781), the signing of the Treaty of Paris (September 1783), the ratification of the treaty by the Continental Congress (Jan. 14, 1784), the ratification by King George III of England (April 9, 1784) or the exchange of the ratification documents (May 12, 1784).

Richard H. Kohn, a historian at the University of North Carolina, told us that how one conceptualizes a war further complicates the answer. "Afghanistan could be considered simply a campaign of the 'war on terror' if one accepts that as a war, just as Korea and Vietnam could be considered campaigns of the Cold War rather than separate wars."
 
We decided not to count the 46-year-long Cold War on the grounds that it belongs in a separate category. We also did not count situations in which U.S. military forces have remained in a long-term role long after the shooting has stopped, such as the U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea for the last 55 years. Finally, we ignored battles that are popularly called "wars" but are usually not fought on military terms, such as the "war on drugs."
 
So, in terms of duration, the Vietnam War was tops -- until now.
 
American involvement in Vietnam spans decades. The Eisenhower administration backed creation of South Vietnam in the 1950s and provided the country with military aid and advisors. President John F. Kennedy expanded that presence.
 
But the formal beginning of U.S. involvement often is dated from Congress' passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution on Aug. 7, 1964. It gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to send troops into battle. The last ground combat troops left Vietnam in March 1973, 8 years and 8 months later.
 
More than 3 million Americans served in the war. The casualty lists includes almost 58,000 dead, more than 1,000 missing in action and some 150,000 Americans seriously wounded.
 
President George W. Bush ordered troops be sent to Afghanistan after terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001. Fighting began less than one month later on Oct. 7. Last month, on June 7, the war completed 8 years and 9 months.
 
There's no fighting the numbers. We find this statement True. 
 

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