Tag Archives: Afghanistan War

On Koran Burning and American Leadership: Video Essay for February 25, 2012

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On Koran Burning and Leading America: Essay for February 25, 2012

One thousand nine hundred four. That is the number of US servicemen and women who have been killed in Afghanistan since we first went into that wretched country more than 10 years ago. It would have been less were it not for the act of an Afghan soldier who assassinated two Americans this week as protest to the perceived affront to Islam over the burning of religious material that contained a copy of the Koran. This has happened before when the Reverend Terry Jones of Florida burned the Koran. Two other US soldiers died after being shot by an Afghani policeman. We train our so-called allies in Afghanistan to defend their own country against the Neanderthal Taliban. We liberated them from their tyranny only to have them offer this as token of their esteem for our sacrifice.

The Afghanis are rioting outside the Bagram airbase north of Kabul. American and NATO soldiers are on the run from irate crowds. Some elected Afghan officials are calling for jihad against the infidel occupiers. And even President Hamid Karzai is taking a very biased tone, waiting for an investigation that will prosecute the perpetrators “through an open trial.”

Apologies are rampant from the US side as General John R. Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, issued a statement addressed “To the noble people of Afghanistan.” If you watch the video, General Allen looks as if he is reading the letter under duress. And perhaps he was. Our President, Barack Obama, also issued an apology to Mr. Karzai, saying, in part, “We will take appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”

Responsible for what action, I ask? It is Mr. Karzai who should be apologizing to the US and NATO for being unable to control his own military and police forces. It is Mr. Obama who should be apologizing to the American people for aiding and abetting an alliance with a corrupt and powerless country that requires constant appeasement so that our service members, the best and brightest of their generation, may fight and die. For what? So that Mr. Karzai and his family can continue to pad their personal bank accounts around the world? So that corrupt officials can continue to skim off the top of American largesse? So the annual cash crop of heroine that our soldiers walk through but cannot destroy can find its way to the shores of the United States to poison our youth and corrupt our society?

WikiLeaks released memos from the current US ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, who described the Afghan President in derogatory tones. Eikenberry believed that Karzai would continue to blame everyone else but himself for the troubles in his country. Said Eikenberry, “Indeed his inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building and his deep seated insecurity as a leader combine to make any admission of fault unlikely, in turn confounding our best efforts to find in Karzai a responsible partner.”

A recent editorial in the New York Times both condemned US forces for their insensitivity after ten years of war in Afghanistan and urged President Karzai to remind the Afghan people of the extreme sacrifices the NATO forces have made on their behalf to rid them of Taliban repression. The Times is right to admonish Karzai but wrong, dead wrong, on scolding US troops for insensitivity. Even an act of intentionality would not warrant the reaction that is being fomented in Afghanistan.

I do so wish that we had a veteran running for President this November. Or at least someone who understood danger or trauma; who understood what it meant to “have someone’s back” when times were tough and dangerous. That is a quality I expect from my Commander-in-Chief. President Obama should “have our soldiers back” right now. Instead, he is apologizing. He has his commanders in the field apologizing. He is prepared to find a sacrificial lamb to flay on the altar of political correctness. The 1,904 American soldiers, and the 999 NATO troops who have died in a war directed by the American Commander-in-Chief, are owed a debt much greater than is being paid to them now.

I would much prefer that the President of the United States of America show at least as much courage in the face of criticism towards those American troops who bear arms under his direction than the obscene obsequiousness shown to a petty dictator in a far away land.

I am counting the days to November 6. Are you?

Press on.

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On Our Iraqi Departure: Video Essay for December 17, 2011

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On Our Iraqi Departure: Essay for December 17, 2011

It began almost 9 years ago the American experience in Iraq. Our country was still in great pain and shock from the attacks of 911. Our focus became that of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Did Saddam Hussein, remember him, have WMD’s? The President said he did, so did Colin Powell, our Secretary of State. Washington, having averted an attack by airplane, was under attack by mail. Anthrax nearly shut down Washington. Try sending a letter to Congress even today and you will be surprised how long it takes to get through security.

To say that our lives have inexorably changed since 911 and our war in Iraq is a gross understatement. In fact, our lives may never return to the same level of blissful ignorance we enjoyed before that fateful day. That is a pity. Our innocence is gone as a country. We have been bloodied and there is blood on our hands, as well. Retribution is an ugly thing. Loss of innocence is an ugly thing, too.

We do not commemorate the end of the War in Iraq so much as we celebrate the return of the last of the American troops this month. Who knows if peace will ever come to Iraq? I certainly hope that it does and that the sacrifice of so many Americans meant what it was intended to mean. Time will tell but if the Arab Spring showed us anything it was that an infant democracy will yield to Muslim autocracy.

Let’s consider some of the obvious costs of the war: four thousand five hundred dead Americans; 35,000 wounded Americans; 800 billion opportunities to invest an American dollar somewhere else; one and a half million American youth whose lives were directly altered by combat. That’s right: 1 ½ million Americans passed through the war zone over 9 years. Their lives can never be the same. Many have returned home with mental scars and torment that will last a lifetime through no fault of their own. They simply did what their country asked them to do.

And for those who have not passed though the war zone itself, they too have paid a price. They have lost their innocence, their childhood, to images of war. My children are children of America at war with terrorists, with Afghanistan, with Iraq and with radical Islam. They are a generation who do not remember when the headlines and the airwaves were not dominated by war. They are a generation who has never known the simple joys of unfettered access. They have never known the liberty of walking a city street un-surveilled. Airport security has become a gauntlet whose unintended consequence is to instill a consistent level of unease with any peaceful experience.

Is there victory in Iraq for America and the dwindled coalition of the willing? Mission Accomplished? Maybe it is but no one is claiming it as vociferously as did President Bush aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. What I do know is that one and a half million Americans answered the call of their nation. They did their duty with honor. And to our credit as a nation we have responded to their sacrifice with appropriate respect and admiration.

We still remain in Afghanistan today with an equally uncertain end game. There is no discernable path to victory in the land of Hamid Karzai. And history teaches us that any victory in Afghanistan is a temporary state. We have put another half million troops through Afghanistan in our ten years there. And another 1857 American deaths, 549 of them in this year alone.
If our troops are fighting for our freedom and safety this begs the obvious question, “Is America any freer or any safer now than it was ten years ago?” I think wistfully about the good old days before the advent of modern international terrorism. One could argue about whether those days ever existed at all but I would suggest that we concluded the pre-modern age of international terrorism with the end of the Cold War and the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction. There were perhaps a few brief years of respite before Operation Desert Storm sparked the modern age of bombings aimed at the United States. Recall that the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993.

Life certainly seemed simpler when you could delude yourself into thinking that nuclear attack was survivable as long as you could hide under your desk. As I’ve grown older, I guess I’ve lost my innocence, too.

Press on.

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