I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation a few days ago and heard this very interesting interview with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid. Rashid is a respected expert regarding the happenings in the Middle East and he’s written a book about the Taliban. Basically, this interview highlights the fact that the Taliban is mounting a formidable resurgence since it’s initial overthrow by coalition forces after 9-11. Military officials are beginning to concede that the situation with the Taliban is far from being under control.
Obviously, this news is very upsetting, especially since the operation in Afghanistan has been heralded the more “successful” of the two military operations since the war on terror began. We are now roughly four years removed from the end of the overthrow of the Taliban and the situation has been gradually getting worse, not better. Not only is the Taliban making a comeback, but the U.S. military is planning on withdrawing 3,000 troops sometime this summer. Maybe that plan needs to be revised. Needless to say, if Afghanistan begins to become yet another black eye in this “War on Terror”, then the United States will have even greater problems with our already crumbling credibility in the world community.
So with the very real prospect of the progress in Afghanistan beginning to regress and the continuation of the terrible conditions in Iraq, what do we have to show for our nation’s effort in the “War on Terror”? In addition to pondering that question, we also have to consider what kind of ripple effect issues such as Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and the newly reported Haditha incident will have in the Arab world. Our military is also being confronted by accusations from Iraq’s own Prime Minister of hostile behavior shown towards the Iraqi people on a regular basis. In the effort to root out the evildoers and terrorists, it seems that we’ve only succeeded in creating more of them. If this current example in Afghanistan will continue to be the trend, then imagine how much worse the situation in Iraq could be in a few years. How many young sons and daughters have we orphaned and turned into perfect candidates for future terrorists?
My intention for this entry isn’t to ridicule our troops in the theater. They’ve sacrificed much more than I ever could and that willingness to sacrifice must be honored and respected. If you get a chance to watch the documentary “Baghdad ER”, please do so and you will be absolutely blown away by the courage and dedication that our troops possess. In the end, the answers to these tough questions that myself and others have raised are not their responsibility. I would suggest that we direct our questions towards the very top links in the military chain of command.
My intention here is to simply ask how our response of revenge after 9-11 is serving us in the quest for the mirage of “national security”. With regard to our efforts in Afghanistan, maybe the short term results are actually turning out to be shorter than we anticipated. If the short term benefits from the war effort are evaporating this quickly over time, what are we to expect the long term results to be? Is it possible that our quest for revenge in this war on terror could be a pathway to even more hatred and violence not only for us but also for our future generations? Considering what kind of damage 19 men with chips on their shoulders and $500,000 can do, I have to admit that it’s a very daunting thought.
On September 14, 2001, President Bush said these words while standing on the rubble in New York City:
“I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
By many people’s estimation, that may have been his best moment as President to date. I’d have to say that I agree, but only part way. It was a great moment and at that time, President Bush had an amazing opportunity to have the world’s ear. But seeing what has transpired since that famous proclamation, it is now possibly the saddest moment of his Presidency. What saddens is me is not that they’ve heard from us but it’s the message we’ve sent. In that moment we chose revenge over peace. We chose security over mercy. If we intend to do good, we must only do good. If we intend to seek peace, we must only be peaceful. I’m almost positive there was some dude about 2000 years ago who was saying something like this, right? This isn’t about fairness or the right for our country to defend itself. We are perfectly within our right to defend ourselves, but as we are in the middle of the “defense” of our nation, don’t ask yourself if it’s “ok”. Ask yourself if it’s actually working. Maybe that ancient dude was on to something.