Sunday has come and gone, and with it the first wave of American air strikes against Afghanistan. Donald Rumsfeld was rather subdued at his Pentagon press conference. Rumsfeld talks a lot, but if you want the real story you should watch his hands. He’s the only senior Cabinet member who makes me want to learn sign language. Typically he makes a number of gestures worthy of Merlin (or at least David Copperfield), but today his hands were strangely silent. I think he’s feeling the gravity of the current situation. There’s a huge difference between deploying forces and having them attack something. I find Rumsfeld’s silent hands strangely comforting; I think he realizes that innocents will die along with the guilty.
Interesting spin on the air campaign: we need air superiority in order to deliver relief supplies to the Afghan population. In the media age, perception is everything. Civilian casualties were never an issue in World War II; they were to be expected, and there was no television to carry images of villages littered with the dead into our homes. Imagine Franklin Roosevelt bombing Dresden so that American forces could deliver relief supplies to the German people. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s what our government claims to be doing today in Afghanistan.
I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad idea to destroy training facilities used by Al Qaeda to train soldiers for the war against America. To do otherwise only invites Osama bin Laden to strike again. But let’s not delude ourselves about what we’re doing half a world away. America’s objective is to topple the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan because they refuse to turn bin Laden over to the US government. The Taliban is an oppressive regime which has repeatedly violated the human rights of the Afghani people. But as the saying goes, “If you’re making an omlette you have to break some eggs.” American military action has and will lead to the deaths of many innocents. Whether the Taliban places dissidents in the line of fire, or one of our “smart bombs” rides the short bus into a preschool, people with no responsibility for the World Trade Center attack or any other terrorist actions will die. Innocents will perish as a direct result of our government’s action. That places the responsibility for those deaths directly upon the shoulders of the American public. You and I.
I’m dissapointed. Dissapointed in our leaders, who feel the need to sugar coat what’s going on in Afghanistan right now. We’re all adults here Mr. President. Don’t tell us we’re achieving “air superiority” so that we can feed the Afghani people. We’re clearing the skies over Afghanistan so that our planes can strike with impunity against our targets of choice. Calling the current conflict the “War on Terrorism” draws an unfortunate parallel with the “War on Drugs”:
The third parallel is the one I find the most worrysome. I’m reminded of the Gulf War. Whether you feel America was justified in the Gulf War, you have to question the decision not to press on into Bagdad and capture or eliminate Sadaam Hussein. Imagine the Allies stoping short of Berlin in WWII! If you’re waging war against the Hitler of the month, you damn well better kill him if you don’t want to be accused of using empty rhetoric and hyperbole. Is Osama the new Hitler? What is our goal in bombing Afghanistan? Are we trying to kill bin Laden? Destroy all the facilities of Al Qaeda? Topple the Taliban? Because “eliminating terrorism” is a great idea, but as a military objective it’s horribly nebulous.