Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line?
(Marvin Hamlisch/ Alan Bergman/ Marilyn Bergman)
Can anybody remember when all we had to worry about was one Occupation of a sovereign nation at a time? And it was easy to find it on a map at least for some of us. It didn't seem that long ago.
Remember We're comin' to get you Saddam? Anbar Province, Sadr City, Mosul, Fallujah, WMD we could even spell the bogey men and fields of fire for the most part. OK, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was an exception, but Kurds, Sunni and Shia made up for that phonetic challenge.
Iraq 2003. It was all so simple then. (Remember when we couldn't spell Baghdad? G before h... g before h.)
And the casualty counts were far less complicated; one thousand, two thousand, three thousand KIAs and counting - a little over 2 a day for the first four years. As long as we didn't concern ourselves with Iraqi civilians and we didn't as it turns out we were OK. After all, it took The Decider almost 3 years to even hazard a guess on collateral damage "30,000, more or less". Now there's a bogey man that fit easily on a picket sign.
But we were still shopping...good times.
It got really uncomfortable for the White House toadies when Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan tried to nail Bush on his "Noble Cause" talking point, the one he touted as the troops were rolling into Baghdad. Many of us stood with this California mom, if only vicariously, as she camped in a ditch in Crawford, Texas daring Dubya to quit hunkering down in Prairie Chapel and meet with her. But noble causes were at a premium, unlike lies and rhetoric. Just where exactly was the nobility in letting the blood of her son Casey, as well as the blood of thousands of our sons and daughters, seep into the sands of Iraq with no end in sight.
The War President never came out of hiding and Cindy never got her answer.
We're all still waiting; only this time around it's Obama trying to conjure up a noble cause for his dumb war and dumber escalations.
Now, more than six years after Shock and Awe it's gotten a whole lot more complicated. Afghanistan (g before h... g before h); Jalalabad; Kandahar; Islamabad, Pakistan. Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari (25 cents off your next espresso if you can identify both of these guys and whose side they're on today).
Just who are the evil doers now? Al-Qaida? They could care less, although smoking out Osama Bin Laden in 2001 elevated the Afghan debacle to "good war" status. This time around US forces are dealing with a Gordian Knot of Taliban Pashtuns, opium traffickers, criminal gangs, Tajik and Uzbek militias of the Northern Alliance, kidnapping rings; Gulbuddin Hekmatayar; Mohammed Omar; Siraj Haqqani. Simple enough?
Maybe we should mandate that our leaders and the flag wavers are able to spell the locales we invade, the terrorists we fight, and the despots we prop up before the next Humvee rolls.
And where are US and NATO forces fighting and dying? Helmand Province, Kandu, Nerkh, Bagram, Zabul Province; in terrain as impassable as the Hindu Kush range and as sandy and arid as the Registan plateau; where phantom militants disappear into the hills or melt into the population until the next skirmish.
Almost makes you miss Anbar Province
And why are we there, in this "graveyard of empires"? After almost eight long years, isn't it about time we get an answer? Drudging up another noble cause won't help. After a million dead Afghans, 5 million refugees and over 14,000 dead soldiers the Soviets never came up with a rationale beyond stabilizing an unpopular regime leading to further destabilization and crippling their economy as a result.
Sound familiar? Well, the US casualty count should, with 43 US soldiers killed in Afghanistan last month, more parents will be looking for answers, maybe that illusive noble cause worth clutching with a folded flag.
Has time re-written every line? Perhaps, but maybe there is still enough hope to go around to learn from history.