The hype surrounding the 9/11 Commission and Richard
Clarke’s testimony is mostly superficial and overly partisan. Americans argue
whether George W. Bush or Bill Clinton was the stronger president against terrorism,
when in fact neither did anything to stop al Qaeda, and, more importantly, both
of them supported the foolish policies in the Middle East – sanctions against
Iraq, subsidies for Israel, stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia – which
incited the terrorist
blowback that took thousands of American lives on September 11.
Recent revelations have made some important realities clear to many Americans,
however. Before September 11, the Bush Administration was apparently more concerned
with the threat
of rogue nations firing missiles at America than with Al
Qaeda, and in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks the administration
admittedly scrambled to find a way to blame
9/11 on Saddam, so as to carry out its ultimate goal of conquering Iraq,
which Bush had wanted
to do since he took office, and which his neoconservative buddies had wanted
to do since the late 1990s.
The administration lied about
a war on Iraq that did nothing to make us safer – as many of us were
saying before the bombs hit Baghdad, and many more are realizing every day.
A high White House official now admits the war was never meant primarily
as a defense of the United States.
Unfortunately, there’s a whole world being forgotten by most people amidst
all of these revelations – a world that these revelations help put into context.
That world is called Afghanistan.
The vast majority of Americans supported the war on Afghanistan, more than
supported the war on Iraq. They considered it a necessary, self-defensive retaliation
to rid the world of the evil Taliban regime that harbored the monsters who had
slaughtered so many innocents on 9/11, and to apprehend those monsters. About eight out of ten
Americans thought the United States should go to war with Afghanistan, while
the rest of the world largely opposed
But now we learn that even Bush and company did not consider it a high priority.
They were always more concerned with Iraq than Afghanistan. Unable to get enough
support to attack Iraq in the immediate wake of 9/11, under expectations to
act forcefully and confidently, and possibly with
some other ignoble motives in mind, Bush invaded Afghanistan as a politically
viable stepping stone on the way to conquering Iraq. The president would eventually
send many more troops and billions of dollars to Iraq than to Afghanistan, calling
Iraq the "central front in the war
Either Afghanistan was a logical target of war and regime change, in which
case Bush has been neglecting it for the last two years so he could focus on
Iraq, or the country was simply another innocent victim of U.S. aggression.
Most Americans have stopped thinking about the invasion of Afghanistan, still
assuming it was as justified as it was made out to be at the time, even as they
are coming around to realize that Bush was incompetent against terrorism before
9/11 and deceitful about it afterwards.
We should not assume that the actions of the U.S. government immediately after
9/11 were any more honest and thoughtful than its actions in the two and a half
years since. It was around the time the United States attacked Afghanistan that
Congress passed the draconian Patriot Act. If the government abused its power
so shortly after 9/11 in the domestic sphere, imagine the crimes in got away
Bush bombed Afghanistan in October of 2001, killing as many civilians as died
on September 11, according to the most
extensive studies. The U.S. government says the estimates cannot be trusted,
but it has attempted no
estimate of its own (the Pentagon has better things to worry about than
such petty details as civilian deaths). Within a year of the U.S. bombing, the
Red Cross counted 127 civilian
casualties from those infamous cluster bombs, of which U.S. forces dropped
more than a thousand. As a result of the bombing, about a
million Afghans had to leave their homes, and hundreds of thousands left the
country. The fighting and chaos have continued to this day, and American soldiers
are still dying.
A "Taliban spokesman" says Osama
and his cohorts are still in Afghanistan, which would explain why the search
for al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan has had such meager
results recently. How fascinating that the U.S. government killed thousands
to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban but the regime still has spokesmen. In a new
attempt to catch bin Laden, the United States has just begun sending a new deployment
of Marines to Afghanistan, bringing the American-led military presence there
to about 15,000.
One might find it odd that the U.S. government has not apprehended Osama yet,
which was supposedly the main reason it went into Afghanistan, but catching
bin Laden and the terrorists was never a serious goal of
the Bush Administration: when it had its best shots at neutralizing al Qaeda,
it instead relied on untrustworthy allies, so as to protect U.S. troops from
danger. The allies ended up taking bribes and letting the terrorists escape.
Apparently, endangering U.S. troops to capture al Qaeda isn’t strategically
sound, but invading and trying to tame Iraq is worth
the lives of six hundred U.S. troops, and
Donald Rumsfeld says it doesn’t even
really matter if the United States catches bin Laden. He says even if the
U.S. government does catch him, it would still need to apprehend the other leaders
of al Qaeda. This goal seems unlikely to be achieved, however, since the terrorist
group has been growing and
reorganizing and is now more impervious to military attacks than ever. But
we all know that the War on Terrorism is not about vanquishing al Qaeda; it
is an all-out war on terrorism in general, characterized by the forceful toppling
of any regime that the neoconservatives want to see gone.
Other writers have also given reasons why we need to remember
Afghanistan: it was the first major campaign in the War on Terrorism, and
we should learn from it as a model. This is a chilling prospect, since the rest
of the War on Terrorism has been a tapestry of government failure and lies.
Just as in Iraq, the United States has failed to keep order, secure democracy,
or institute freedom in Afghanistan. Just as Congress irresponsibly authorized
Bush to attack Iraq without the solemn deliberation involved in a formal Declaration
of War, Congress also gave Bush carte blanche to attack Afghanistan without
such a declaration. Just as the Bush Administration deceived the public about
its true motivations on Iraq, its given reasons for pouncing on Afghanistan
must now be taken with a grain of salt.
We must not forget Afghanistan – the thousands killed, the thousands who have
lost loved ones, the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced and have
lost their homes. We must not forget the U.S. soldiers and marines stationed
there right now, being shot at, thousands of miles away from their families.
Most of all, we must not forget that even the most ostensibly justified responses
to terrorism carried out by the U.S. government are usually ineffective and
dangerous, and based on ulterior motives.
It’s a shame we can’t trust our political leaders to respond wisely and benevolently
to real threats to American security. That should not surprise us, though, when
it is their insane policies of aggression
and support for foreign belligerents that have spawned these threats
in the first place.