Sex sells, and Iraq is a rockstar.
It has everything a 24 hour news network could ever ask for; political attention, pubic attention, protesters on every side and in every country. It’s acting as a springboard for the much anticipated 2008 Presidential Election and every day hundreds of innocent civilians die in a rainbow of sectarian violence.
The War in Iraq has become a Soap Opera, the violence and disregard for basic human rights on all fronts has become nothing more than a sideshow and a talking point, something the West turns on to watch after dinner, something they turn off again before a good nights sleep. Anyone who believes otherwise need only Google John McCains recent stroll through Baghdads Central Market, and the reactions thereafter. You’re currently watching Season Five of The Rich and the Faceless, the series finale is sure to be explosive.
The only problem with this grotesque influx of entertainment and writing material is that one very important situation has been left for the birds, Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan?
Perhaps I’m just another naive Canadian, upset that my countrymen are mired in a War fought at the behest of our American neighbors, neighbors who have since fled for greener pastures. But naive or not, the 27,000 American troops currently stationed in Afghanistan are no closer to obtaining any kind of victory than they were in February of 2002, months after the Kickoff to Kabul. That these American troops, relegated to a position of fighting in an inferior war, are still spearheading the NATO offensive, something they appear disinterested in carrying out, let alone capable of, is unfortunate. To say the least.
There are 26 allies in the coalition force in Afghanistan. Canada, a nation known for its role as peace-keeper, has roughly 2,500 troops conducting front-line counter insurgency tactics. The peace keepers have become the proxy warriors of an overextended American Military, one that looks more and more like it would like to just blow the Middle East off the face of the planet and be done with it. As a Canadian this is a tough batch of Kool-Aid to swallow.
In Southern Afghanistan, Canadian and NATO forces are preparing for a pre-Spring pre-offensive offense against a completely revitalized Taliban, whom along with al-Qaeda, have discovered previously untapped sources of leadership. One would think that after six years of fighting the Worlds dominant military power, the leadership would be on fragile terms, not bolstered. But this logic is something that, inexplicably, has been lost on the leadership of the West. Terrorism is the only career path with a 100% failure rate, no one ever gets what they want, and the violent actions that define it do nothing more than to entrench the vitality of the forces it opposes. It’s madness, through and through.
If at some point over the course of the last 6 years there had been some kind of significant progress in fighting the Taliban, disrupting al-Qaeda, or restoring a sense of humanity to the Afghan people, a case could be made that the sacrifice was worth it. But we are not so lucky, and the worst part is we became so distracted by another War that the failure of this one has been left for page 6 of every newspaper in the world.
We have been forced to forget about Osama bin Laden, because that was then and Iraq is now. And by the way, we got Saddam Hussein, so it was all worthwhile. We have been led to believe that the Afghan people are far better off now than they were in 2001 under Talibani rule. In some areas this may be the case, but in Southern Afghanistan it most certainly is not. Violent action and violent reaction permeate from every militant outfit the area can offer, be they NATO or be they Turbaned. Misguided mortar attacks kill civilians at an unacceptable frequency, homes are searched and ransacked by coalition forces, car bombs and IED’s have tripled in the last year, cooperation is mandatory, or there will be no warning shots.
Had this war been fought, or even approached, with any kind of commitment on the part of the United States, indeed the very reason so many countries have sacrificed their finest, Canada and other like nations would be using their military to do what they do best right now; build schools, build roads, teach engineers, deliver supplies, erect a self-sufficient infrastructure that would allow the Afghani people to control their own country for the first time in decades.
One of our very own contributors, Zaki, had the pleasure of experiencing Afghanistan up close and personal, from his articles you get a genuine sense of how helpless much of the population is, and how deserving they are of something better. This is what the focus should be, this is what the focus should have always been, not a split decision with Iraq. Fighting it with more violence was never the answer, fighting it with paranoia was never the answer, fighting it with more hate was never the answer, and fighting it in two places at once was certainly not the answer.
Pluralism, freedom of choice, basic human rights and equality for all with a healthy respect for religious toleration, that is how you fight terrorist fundamentalism. Not misguided “precision” bombing runs. Not accidentally killing civilians and chalking it up to acceptable losses. That is not how you fight hate. That is not how you take over ones country and expect them to align with the Devil they have never seen, as opposed to the Devil that lives next door. That is arrogance. Plain and simple.
No, you fight intolerance by preaching tolerance, and you do so by winning the hearts and minds of those caught in the crossfire by any means necessary.
You do not round up loose affiliates of the Taliban after they have been deposed and ship them to secret CIA prisons where they will not see their families for months or years at a time, if ever again.
You do not allow for yourself as an occupying force to be associated with fear, or you have lost the war before you have entered the battle, for terrorism is not a fight of attrition or of technology, it is a fight of will and of emotion.
And you most certainly do not leave them standing with their pants down.
You do not take over their country, run roughshod over their way of life, kill, maim and imprison the men of a patriarchal society, only to pick up and move on to a bolder challenge in Iraq before you have finished the job you started.
With Iraq we have found the perfect distraction, it far overshadows the problems in Afghanistan and rightly so. This is not to suggest that Iraq was designed as a distraction from Afghanistan, rather Afghanistan was designed as an excuse for Iraq. But nevertheless we must not forget that there was a time when Afghanistan was Afghanistan and Iraq was Iraq, a time when one did not correlate with the other, a time when one was deserving of our attention and when the other was deserving of our diplomacy.
There was a time when Osama bin Laden was the Worlds Most Wanted Man, a time when the human rights violations perpetrated by the Taliban were further reason to focus military attention on liberating their people, a time when justice would be served at the expense of evil and in favor of humanity.
There was a time when Afghanistan was Afghanistan.