Why are we still in these places?

Who will be the last one to die?

How long now since John Kerry, a decorated hero, asked that question in relation to the Vietnam War as it lurched to its unseemly conclusion?

Despite the pundits, the military brass and the politicians who enable our support of a civil war in Afghanistan, the die is cast there too. We won't be leaving tomorrow, but the countdown has begun. So who will be the last American to give up his or her life for another country far outside our sphere of influence and with little or no strategic importance?

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The place was even too forbidding for Osama Bin Laden. Far better set up house for his three wives within spitting distance of the U.S. financed Pakistani army.

Luckily for us, that unremitting hater of all things American, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army, is refusing to let our major thinkers keep us indefinitely enmeshed in Iraq, a country we should never have invaded in the first place.

Pity there's not an Afghani Muqtada. But that's hardly on the cards. Everyone there is too much on the make, including the corrupt Karzai government and various Taliban allies who offer protection so that roads can be built and those oh-so elusive hearts won.

In the end, money too will drive our exit strategy - or rather the lack of it. There was a time we could write blank checks and impose our will on the world; but according to Congressman Paul Ryan we can no longer even afford to cover medical care for our seniors, or the pittance we call social security.

In the meantime, however, we can still pour over a hundred billion a year into Afghanistan and that's just the military cost. Who even wants to think of the money and lives that have been squandered in Iraq?

Oh, by the way, for those of you who were opposed to bailing out our financial institutions, you ever hear of the Kabul Bank? Well it's hitting some hard times right now - almost a billion bucks was given out in loans to politically connected shareholders including the president's brother, Hamid Karzai, already suspected of having a hand in the booming opium trade. It would appear that most of those loans lacked collateral, and even documentation.

The government of Afghanistan barely takes in revenues of a billion a year, so it's highly unlikely they will be ponying up, and since we can't continue propping up the world's second most corrupt government if their financial system collapses, guess where the buck stops?

And that's not even taking into account the human dimension. Because we're fighting a wily resourceful enemy who can melt into the population, we continue to kill innocent civilians, often women and children. Even our paid pawn, President Karzai, recently warned that such conduct was unbecoming. Of course, he had his hand out at the same time.

So why stay? Bin Laden's dead and Qaeda prefers beachfront property in Yemen and Somalia.

Many of us came down heavily on President Bush for invading Iraq but we continue to turn a blind eye to President Obama's endless war in Afghanistan. After all, those horrible Republicans and Tea Partiers would flay him alive if he cut and ran, right?

Perhaps, but when the American embassy was blown up in Beirut, President Reagan moved the marines out of Lebanon posthaste. No one called him a quitter.

Nor did President Clinton allow us to become enmeshed in Somalia after Black Hawk Down. Those were different days, however, before the National Security cabal committed us to permanent war.

And have all the lives lost and money wasted made us the least bit safer? I think not. Blowing up God-crazed peasants half way around the world does little but line the pockets of corrupt foreign governments and our own military industrial complex.

Together, they'll tease out this endgame until the ultimate question remains: who'll be the last one to die?