Through the Looking Glass and into the Fire: Afghanistan and America’s longest war

What a difference nine (and counting) years make. Sort of like stepping through the proverbial looking glass: it turns out that nothing is as it seems. Good wars turn out to be bad ones; a righteous cause is revealed to be baseless; we sacrifice on the altar of our presumption the very people whom we say we are trying to save, whose hearts and minds we say we aspire to win. Oh, we swear up and down that they matter, but they don’t.  Not really.  Otherwise we would have probably made a greater effort to stop killing what the now disgraced General McChrystal characterized as an “amazing” number of them.

Sure, they all look alike – raggedy and dusty and like they live in a country that’s been bombed into the Stone Age. . . . Oh, right.  It has been bombed into the Stone Age.  Or it’s dark and they have guns.  Oh, and what about that unfortunate habit of theirs of shooting off guns to celebrate a wedding or driving rapidly towards checkpoints while gesticulating wildly – never advisable given our understandably jumpy troops. And what’s with the bad guys not wearing uniforms? That way you’d at least know who’s side somebody’s on before he. . . say . . . blows himself up  so as to take out you and a few of your buddies.

The crux of the problem is that we’re out of sync: we’re waging a war and they’re . . . well . . . they’re messin’ with us.  Let’s face it. The Afghanis are wedged in between a rock and a hard place with nary an iota of wiggle room.  If they co-operate with NATO forces, the Taliban does bad things to them; if they co-operate with the Taliban, NATO troops do bad things to them.  It’s what you might call a lose/lose situation. The only way to chose between two, very painful evils is proximity – the guys who are within striking distance. . . . That’s who you side with.  For the time they are within striking distance. The hearts and minds of the Afghanis aren’t for sale; they’re for rent. By the hour.  And, frankly, under those circumstances, mine would be too.

The United Nations recently published the results of a study to determine the prevalence of drug use in Afghanistan. It reveals that 800,000 Afghans, 7% of the adult population of 14 million, are drug users – a disturbingly high percentage when compared to other countries and one that is steadily rising.

Under the circumstances, who can blame them?

Obama established an end time to our involvement in Afghanistan back in December 2009.  It can’t come soon enough. It’s time we picked up our toys and went home.

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