What the hell is going on?
On Thursday, April 19, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published
photos of US soldiers posing with body parts of Afghans that they had killed.
War may be hell, but sometimes it is also an expression of pure stupidity.
A long time ago, on October 7, 2001, the US began dropping bombs
on Afghanistan. Those aggressions were a response to the 9/11 attacks that had
been masterminded by a condemnable horde of terrorists who were holed up in the
Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. As such, Operation Enduring Freedom, as
the military campaign was originally titled by President George W. Bush,
proceeded under a legitimate--if not altogether trouble-free--mantle of moral authority.
As of 2001, the US was clearly the aggrieved party. The terrorists
had struck first, and Operation Enduring Freedom could be characterized as a
measured and appropriate response to an unwarranted act of atrocious
That was then. In the long years since the US launched Operation
Enduring Freedom, endless miscues have transformed the mission in Afghanistan
from unprecedented early success into America's longest and, increasingly,
messiest war. In the weeks following the launch of Enduring Freedom, the US
bombing campaign seemed to be making a mockery of the ancient truism that
Afghanistan was the Graveyard of Empires. Where previous would-be conquerors,
from Alexander the Great all the way to the Soviet Union, had gotten bogged
down in interminable, unwinnable struggles, Operation Enduring Freedom swept
the Taliban and al Qaeda out of their mountain strongholds like so much dust
before a broom.
The initial bombing campaign ended in a matter of weeks as the US
succeeded in securing control over all strategic cities and territories within
Afghanistan. Further, this military lightning strike enabled the US to
install a new government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that was headed
by a democratically-elected leader, Hamid Karzai.
By 2004, it appeared as though the US mission in Afghanistan had
been all but accomplished. Except for a bit of mopping up, it seemed as though
the US was poised to transfer control of Afghanistan to its newly-elected
leader. In practically every respect, Operation Enduring Freedom could be
characterized as monumental success.
Then, foolishly, the Bush Administration shifted its focus to
Iraq. Don't get me wrong, Saddam Hussein was a deplorable human being, however,
if we employ that criteria as a justification for deposing world leaders, then
the US would be obliged to topple practically every government on the planet. I
wonder if Dubya was acquainted with the old adage, "People in glass houses""
Anyway, as the US shifted its focus to Iraq, the situation in
Afghanistan went from "under control" to "unwinnable quagmire." In the end,
Operation Enduring Freedom succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of
What a waste.
Once having lost the opportunity to secure a lasting peace in
Afghanistan, the US military effort has become bogged down in the Graveyard of
Empires. At best--and in spite of occasional military surges--the endless US
mission could be characterized as an exercise in treading water. At worst, the
US military has succumbed to a collective case of post-traumatic stress
disorder. In recent months, the US has gone from the PR disaster of burning
Qurans, to Sergeant Robert Bales' mass murder of Afghanistan civilians, to
yesterday's news of troops mugging for cameras with their gruesome trophies.
The only explanation is that, after long ago having lost its moral
compass, the US mission in Afghanistan has completely lost its grip on reality.
In short, the US war in Afghanistan has gone insane. This, I believe, is why it
is becoming increasingly difficult to convince ourselves--much less the
Afghans--that the US mission in Afghanistan is capable of achieving any
Apart from ravaging our troops and the Afghan people with
intensifying cases of PTSD, what are we accomplishing in Afghanistan? Further,
what can we hope to accomplish when every step that we take carries us further
into our collective insanity. An insane process cannot produce a rational
outcome. The only solution is to end the insanity.
The war in Afghanistan must end. And the sooner, the better.