The cost of war

Olaf schmid_226mod

On the left is a picture of Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid. He’s been described by his superiors as the “bravest and most courageous” man”, and died defusing a bomb on the last day of his gruelling 5 month tour of duty. He’d defused over 60 bombs while in Afghanistan and his commanding officer refers to him simply as a legend.


Karzai and UN

 And this is President Hamid Karzai with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. After some muted and guarded congratulations from world leaders, President Karzai will try to legitimise his presidency with a crackdown on corruption and work with what his “Taliban brothers”.

Over in Pakistan, the government have taken the bold step of putting adverts in newspapers offering a bounty of $600,000 for the capture – dead or alive – of Taliban leader in Pakistan – Hakimullah Mehsud. He already has a bounty on his head offered by the US. Nearly 300 people have been killed by bomb blasts across Pakistan since mid-October and these attacks have been blamed on the Pakistani Taliban.

A day after world leaders called on President Karzai to implement a new chapter for the troubled country and for all the negotiations about more troops, increasing security and stabilizing the country, what exactly is the true cost of war? The three examples in this post happened on the same day, each one having a troubling effect on the families and friends of those involved.

Do soldiers’ families watch the news and remind themselves of the mission their loved ones are undertaking? Does freedom and democracy mean anything when lives are being lost? As Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid’s widow said “Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five-month tour. He was my best friend and soul-mate. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work. I am so proud of him.”

The human face of war can be illustrated in many ways, but where should the real focus be? On the families of those who’ve been killed – soldiers, Afghans and Pakistanis, or on the political processes that have caused, and can end these deaths?

44 Responses to “The cost of war”

  1. 1 Nigel
    November 3, 2009 at 11:22

    War without casualties in not possible. War without legitimate reason or legal basis is murder.

    • 2 Najibullah Noorzai
      November 4, 2009 at 07:05

      Reading the Story of Sgt Olaf Schmid made me very sad and I feel the pain of his family and friends for his lost in Afghanistan. It is very disgusting. The West invaded Afghanistan for bringing peace and prosperty for the people of Afghanistan and the Region but in fact the mission is moving toward other directions … It has been promoting WAR and Killing of Civillians.

      Afghanistan is a backward Country which even can not make a (needle), if the supply of guns, bombs and other artilleries get stopped in Afghanistan by the neighbouring countries and West, Then (Peace) will emerge because how can Afghans make massive bombs and weopons by themselves because they don’t have technology to make such things and when they don’t have access to such disastrous weopons then they won’t be able to fight against their government or join Taliban.

      Ignorance is in high level, because Westners are not efforting to make Universities in Afghanistan. Since their arrival, they haven’t been able to make a sample university like Kabul University. Similarly, it is important to provide better opportunities for Youth Afghans, For instance, if each developed country accept 20 students at their Universities every year then the Level of Literacy will maximise in Afghanistan because upon their return they will aware the people the values for a Better Safe State.

  2. 3 Crispo, Uganda
    November 3, 2009 at 11:48

    Nigel, so much for reason. What of war with a wrong reason and many casualities? What is that called?

    War in 2009 is outright barbarism. For these many millenia, does it mean we still retain our aggressive nature even on matters that require common sense? Of course we are aggressive and may not discard that behaviour soon.

    • 4 Nigel
      November 3, 2009 at 12:34

      Hi Crispo, I am against all war regardless of reason and do not believe that killing people is the right way to make peace. However wars are being fought and people are being killed whatever the reason and I believe that the people who wage these wars are criminally responsible for every single person who dies.

  3. November 3, 2009 at 11:54

    You ask, “Do soldiers’ families watch the news and remind themselves of the mission their loved ones are undertaking? Does freedom and democracy mean anything when lives are being lost?”

    What mission? Where is the freedom… the democracy? We can not bring freedom and democracy to people who live without electricity and roads, and liberal educations. We can not GIVE democracy to a country. Afghanistan isn’t Germany or Japan after they were defeated.

    We should leave the country, and let the people of Afghanistan people create their own government.

    No one can tell you what “victory” in Afghanistan would look like.

  4. 6 Jim Newman
    November 3, 2009 at 12:09

    Hello again
    I agree with Nigel. It’s a tragedy that soldiers should die in someone elses country fighting someone elses war. A bigger tragedy is the number of Afghans being slaughtered just because they are Afghans living in their own country.
    Don’t forget the name Paul. Easily remembered – easily zapped.

  5. 7 Sheel,Kuwait
    November 3, 2009 at 12:28

    Right, War is a cruel thing even if its purpose was to bring democracy and prosperity to a nation. War is really not a tacical soultion in bringing down terroism. Its is just simply aggravating and wrosening the whole terroist issue. The Taliban are not likely to get defeated so easily, nor are they going to give up even if Americans have captured their leader. So, This is not a war but an indiscrimate masscare of innocent people without a definative purpose or goal. Democracy and Freedom can never be given in a plate to nation.

    Although I have my symphaties to the victims of this war, to the family of the victimized soliders and common persons who lost their lives in this cold aimless war, But this war HAS TO STOP to prevent any more casulties.

    • 8 kamalanii
      November 4, 2009 at 07:15

      how do you stop this criminal terrorist? do you have a cup of tea and talk to then?
      this are cruel sick people they kill there own, with the sick idea that they will go to heaven? what is the solution?

  6. 9 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    November 3, 2009 at 12:35

    The human face of war can be illustrated in many ways, but where should the real focus be? On the families of those who’ve been killed – soldiers, Afghans and Pakistanis, or on the political processes that have caused, and can end these deaths?

    The real focus must be on the families of those who were killed AND on those killed.

    It is only thru such a focus that our ethics and morality may be awakened to an extent that we as individuals and as politicians & leaders of Nation States consider very carefully the consequences of our actions before we take those actions.

    Focusing on the political processes is useless as long as such political processes are dominated by corporations, corruption, short-term / long-term vested interests and the naked as well as subtle pursuit of Power (financial, economic, religious etc.) by any means.

  7. 10 steve
    November 3, 2009 at 13:06

    We all know how well appeasement and hugs worked with Nazi Germany during WW2. Because of the unwillingness to actually fight vs appeasement, many more people died than had Britain and France actually attacked Germany when Germany invaded Poland. It could have ended there and then. Fortunately people then had backbones and fought to win. Imagine if we showed pictures of KIA, a single person, and suggested that the war wasn’t worth fighting. How many millions more would the Nazis have murdered?

  8. 11 Bob in Queensland
    November 3, 2009 at 13:14

    Surely the problem here is that we’re no longer sure WHY we’re in Afghanistan. The venture began as a pursuit of Al Qaeda who had been allowed to base themselves there; it morphed into a plan to overthrow the Taliban government “for the good of the Afghanis” and now seems to be about propping up a corrupt and illegitimate president. If the relatives of soldiers serving there are wondering if it’s worth it, I can quite understand.

  9. 12 scmehta
    November 3, 2009 at 13:40

    The real focus is and should be as to how much better off and peaceful the world would be after winning this global war against terrorism and extremism. The whole world has turned against the extremist/terrorist cult/mindset, and that is half the battle won. Although it does feel sad to realize that some more sacrifices may need to be made to achieve a decisive victory in this war, but the world would be ever so thankful to all the martyrs, who by making the ultimate sacrifice, left our future so much more secure and civilized.

  10. 13 gary
    November 3, 2009 at 13:42

    I give my most sincere condolences to the family of Sgt. Olaf Schmid and to those of every casualty of this conflict. Those who suggest war is useless are exactly correct. If war were an effective means of deciding issues all humanity’s questions would have by now been answered. Of course, the opposite is correct. Wars create more issues than they solve, more people seeking vengeance than victims, and thus more soldiers than peacemakers. Imagine the result If but a fraction of the monies and human resources spent on war had been directed toward real solutions to humanity’s problems.

  11. 14 Keith
    November 3, 2009 at 13:49

    War is a process where the most noble members of society are sent to foreign lands to die while mediocre people gain rule the homeland in their place.

    November 3, 2009 at 14:53

    Wars should only come as a last result and for legitimate reasons. Unluckily for us, the decisions are made by politicians. Whats wrong about it is that we are incrisingly in danger because most of them cannot be trusted. As if that is not enough, our very own ability to select good leaders who are myopic is questionable. We no longer take it sereously enough because we are usually willingly hijacked by attention grabbers who go to any lengths to make use of us in entertainment industry to fool the rest.
    We can no longer afford to treat our young men and women in military like canon powder stock. Even gun powder is accountable. In the same breath entertainment industry geared to glorify misguided patriotism should be given serious examination. We must realize that we all in for it and can’t afford to regard ourselves as bystanders who are oblivious of all these mayhems.

  13. 16 patti in cape coral
    November 3, 2009 at 15:09

    The cost of war is always too high and that is what makes it a thing to be avoided.

    November 3, 2009 at 15:18

    I have questions that bother me and its probably me alone when it comes to the issues at hand. For one thing, I do not like attacking an idea without understanding its genesis. How does a bunch of people wake up and decide that Americans, Africans, Asians or Brits in general are not good people. This whole mess is shrouded in unwaranted mystery because even the Taliban who have nothing to loose if they disclosed those reasons won’t tell you honestly what the fight is all about. Do not forget even mongrels have visible legitimate reasons for growling.
    The first culprits for all this mess was the inteligence communities who used their own intelligence to take the mess at doorsteps of the politicians. It is not enough for Obama to say that secrecy in torture activities is outlawed. Conclusive disclosure of the chief reasons behind current military adventures need to be exposed clearly so that we stop living and acting in ignorance and yet we are menatlly and materially taxed for it.

    • 18 Peter
      November 4, 2009 at 11:39

      I agree with what you are saying, not all people of any group or race are bad or even involved. That in its self is half the problem. There are innocent people mixed up in this whole mess, as there are in all events and wars. These middle east conflicts have mixed agenda’s, political, financial and issues of safety & stability. This has become or maybe always has been clouded. People are fighting for many different reasons, and while people are fighting, people will always use this opportunity to make money and or cease power. Weapons trade in war time has always been very profitable and always will be, whether right or wrong, some people just don’t care of the result as long as they are making money.
      This type of war can be likened to Vietnam in as much as one side stands out in full uniform and can be easily identified, while the other blends in with the general public. For one side the war is clear, while the other don’t know friend (innocent) from foe. There can never be an end to this war in our life time, if this continues as it currently is set out. There are two possibilities, the first is that the foreign troops pull out and let the Afghan people deal with this themselves. Else the foreign troops take complete control with no local troops getting involved to cause confusion. Like the very unfortunate and sad case of the five British troops being shot by a policeman, believed to be on their side!!!
      Innocents are everywhere, all races, all religions, people from all walks of life.

  15. 19 nora
    November 3, 2009 at 15:26

    Theories are theories, but real peace is made after the bombs are defused. Only on bomb-free soil can you plant or even take a stroll. Sgt. Olaf was doing the ultimate modern housework of peace, defusing explosive devices. Thank you WHYS for telling his story and for titling a segment THE COST OF WAR.

    Oz, as his friends called him, was killed on his last day, and we should, in his honor, at least beg our governments to shorten the tours for people in high stress situations. I would like to hear more from his wife.

    It seems we are more comfortable decrying war than figuring out how to make real peace. Man is a scrappy beast, even without armies. Doing nothing when the bullies rule isn’t peace I find cash bounties for ‘leaders’ disgusting. Like drone attacks, they cause propaganda effects against our purposes.

  16. 20 JanB
    November 3, 2009 at 15:45

    Let’s not forget the bigger picture here: war against the Taliban is justified when you remember how things were under their rule.
    At one time they killed 8000 civilians in a matter of days (Mazar-e-Sharif, 1998) and those are just the recorded deaths.
    The only thing that stopped them from killing all Shiites in Afghanistan was the prospect of war with Iran.

    So yes, war with the Taliban is justified, and just pulling out now completely will cause a genocide by the Taliban. The only problem I have with the current war is that our governments now support a Taliban-light regime (including the so revered Dr. Abdullah) who drafted an Islamic constitution, instead of a democratic one.

    Until that situation is rectified I cannot support this war, rather I believe NATO should pull back to those areas that are not predominantly Pashtun, areas where people hate the Taliban just as much as we do.

  17. 21 Tom K in Mpls
    November 3, 2009 at 16:03

    Unlike most ‘poster child’ topics, I want to address this one directly. First you need to accept that enough British people and politicians believe the actions in Afghanistan worthwhile or else there would have been a withdrawal. Second, Staff Sergeant Schmid was not on his first enlistment. He knew all aspects of what he was doing and made a choice. And third, people die in wars, that is what it is all about.

    He died doing his job. For him this was ‘in action’. Not just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In every way his death should be honored and respected. Many deaths in war are not so noble. A kid in over his head in a fight on his first enlistment, a random mortar shell, a traffic accident. These rate only sympathy. S Sgt Schmid exemplified professionalism. A loss, not a tragedy.

    • 22 nora
      November 3, 2009 at 18:16

      What qualifies as tragedy, even in Shakespearean terms, more than the death of the Ozman? Wisecracking guy you call in when an improvised explosive device shows up dying hours before the end of his tour in Afghanistan? His wife calls it murder, and hopefully will have more to say. Tom steps up to say his death is not a tragedy, which makes his death more tragic for those close to him if they hear it…..

      Hope everyone who knew this guy gets to savor their memories and tell his story well.

      • 23 Tom K in Mpls
        November 5, 2009 at 18:32

        I finally figured out how to answer your gross misunderstanding. While I personally wouldn’t shed a tear over his death, I would love to toast him with a good stout with people that knew him.

  18. 24 Dennis@Tc3
    November 3, 2009 at 16:13

    First off…My deepest condolences and prayers are being extended to Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid, family and friends in the untimely death of this fine military staff member in Afghanistan….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  19. 25 Jennifer
    November 3, 2009 at 16:20

    A better question:

    What is your freedom worth?

    Are we prepared to give up our personal freedom for the sake of “peace” if it means giving up our freedom? Especially with others who do not have any genuine interest in “peace”?

    Living in a fantasy world and not realizing that if you want “peace”, “freedom”, “democracy”, you have to fight for it. (Sometimes literally) This is a sacrifice that many people make, even for those that cry for keeping our heads in the sand.

  20. 27 Ibrahim in UK
    November 3, 2009 at 16:27

    I think Goerge Orwell has some very relevant quotes when it comes to war:

    “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”

    “Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”

    “All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

    • 28 Tom K in Mpls
      November 3, 2009 at 19:21

      That is all true for invaders simply looking for gain for themselves. This has two parts, stopping a group with the proven ability to do harm beyond their borders, and to help the locals live free from the armed group that did us harm. Any sane person knows there will be many losses, but history has shown, commonly you loose more if you do nothing.

  21. 29 kamalanii
    November 3, 2009 at 17:53

    To, the family of this amazing soldier. My husband was kill in Iraq he was a USMARINE,MY HEROE,MY LOVE FOR EVER. is hard to loose a love one but remenber him and honor him for what he did. this amazing soldiers,Marines are fighting against this sick,coward terrorist what ever your opinion is about a war this HEROES need our support 24/7. TO THE TROOPS AMERICAN’S AND ENGLISH THANK YOU FOR YOUR COURAGE GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  22. 30 Jessica in NYC
    November 3, 2009 at 18:35

    I have to separate my feeling toward the war and the soldiers serving our country, having lost loved ones in Iraq and having loved ones currently serving in Afghanistan. We don’t watch the news to “remind” [ourselves] of the mission they are on, we watch and read every piece of the news we can looking for updates clinging to hope that no news is good news. Freedom is one of the most cherished values in a democracy and there is honor in losing your life fighting for it, however, something our leaders sense of democracy is misguided and our soldiers pay the highest price.

  23. 31 jens
    November 3, 2009 at 18:44

    Ibrahim In the UK,

    nice little quotes, unfortunatly the reality is a little more than some quotes. if you believe that fundamentalist islam is going o put down it’s weapons and deep hatred of the west, courtesy of a couple of nice quotes I feel you are sorely mistaken. Just watch how these barbarians are killing their own innocent people to intimidate with the aim to gain absolute power. Peace is only atainable if both sides want this peace. For us to walk away comes equal to them winning and that will only encourage more violence

  24. 32 margaret
    November 3, 2009 at 19:04

    So few Americans actually have served in the military or know anyone who has is one problem; add to that the media whitewash of the wars. Result: the real horror of it all is basically invisible to the average American.

  25. November 3, 2009 at 19:12

    I cannot understand why those roadside bombs are not destroyed in situ,rather than defusing,it is quite easily done,and no one dies.None should be in any doubt as to what the Taliban want,it’s painfully obvious.Hopefully none will have died in vain,but only if the evil is defeated.I shall be attending poppy day services this sunday to give my thanks to those brave souls who kept and are keeping me free.

    • 34 Tom K in Mpls
      November 3, 2009 at 19:31

      Sometimes they feel the odds of success vs the cost to buildings and such rates the attempt. S Sgt Schmid had disabled over 60 devices. He knew the options and risks. I suspect he thought the odds were more than good or the location was important enough.

  26. 35 Craig
    November 3, 2009 at 19:15

    Your show has been on the air for only a few minutes, and already I think it is one of the most significant shows I’ve every heard on World Have Your Say. Thanks to Ros, the guests and everyone involved. I am so sorry for all those who have lost, whether in Afghanistan, England, the US or elsewhere.

  27. 36 John in Salem
    November 3, 2009 at 19:52

    This did not begin as a “political” war. It was a military response to a direct attack and had it been directed competently we would now be sending military assistance to a legitimate government to help them fight their own battles instead of sending our own people to do it for them.
    The death of Olaf Schmid and so many others only serve one purpose now – to teach us once again that arrogance and power will always add up to tragedy. If we wish to honor their memories we should do it by never allowing this to happen again.

  28. 37 jens
    November 3, 2009 at 22:33


    you are actually wrong. i know plenty of americans who have served in the military. A lot of my friends have either served or have loved ones serving in the military. If there is one nation who knows what it is like to have people serve then it is the USA, especially since service was mandatory in the not so long ago past.

    just walk the streets and see how many veterans are homless or in need of support and you see the horror of wars.

    • 38 Peter
      November 4, 2009 at 12:01

      This is an absolute nightmare and something needs to be done. No veteran should be left out in the cold without a home. We see people left homeless due to not being able to fit in, or for just not being able to pay their bills. While asylum seekers and refugees are given homes. What is this about???

      More has to be done all over the world to look after people who have served, and people in general.

      • 39 Tom K in Mpls
        November 4, 2009 at 18:58

        I was in the Marines for four peaceful years. It really annoys me when people make silly blanket statements regarding veterans. I can tell you they are as diverse a group as any other. You will find they include the best and the worst people the world has to offer.

        The biggest separator would be those that saw combat. Fortunately, they are now a minority. They were a minority even during the Vietnam war. Some of these people have mental scars. In the US, the Veterans Administration is extremely caring, useful and adaptive in helping these people as these people wish. What you need to realize is it is ineffective and morally wrong to force a cure on anyone for anything. When these people would rather exist outside society, all you can do is be there for them if and when they change their minds. The VA does this.

      • 40 Peter
        November 5, 2009 at 11:13

        Thanks. As long as they are getting the help they need/want. I am sure you are correct in saying there is a mixed bag of cases, different states of physical and mental state.
        I hope you are also correct in saying they are where they want to be. Keep up the great work Veterans Administration.


  29. 41 Ali
    November 4, 2009 at 06:33

    I really appreciate the International community’s efforts for getting Afghanistan out of almost 30 years war and conflict and keeping this country in line with the development and reconstruction. If Afghans are living in peace and having a system today, it is all b/c of International community’s financial and and physical support.

    I think people of Afghanistan should be very grateful to International Community.

    We have the experience of a purely Afghan government before collapse of Taliban, where that government did direct Afghanistan too?

    In opinion it was even darkest time than Taliban time.

    The financial and human loses of the International Community in the last couple of years has been only for stabilization of Afghanistan.

    Thank You

  30. 42 Ibrahim in UK
    November 4, 2009 at 11:01


    Unfortunately most of the world only woke up to reality after 9/11 and are completely oblivious to the heinous crimes that preceeded it and provoked into existence the kind of people who hate the West strong enough to commit 9/11. Something like starving half a million Iraqi children to death and calling it a “price worth paying” is hardly a sign of peace, neither is toppling democracies and installing dictatorships and protecting vile regimes when it suits us.
    Continuing the same evils and crimes will continue to produce the same extreme reaction. With one hand we fight the fire, with the other we fuel it. Future generations will continue to count the cost of war unless this generation puts an end to the cycle.

  31. 43 kyle
    November 4, 2009 at 11:51

    we shouldnt even be over there its the americans fault they should deal with there own problems. we should pull back an d just bomb them.

    • 44 Peter
      November 4, 2009 at 12:10

      History has shown many countries interferring with the politics of other countries, placing authority figures in where they can do their bidding. Some work out well, for a while, then turn sour.

      This has been and always will be the case in the fight for power & money. Money and power make the world go around, so this will always be the driving factor behind everything in the end, if not right from the outset.

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