Saturday, January 9, 2010

LIFE IS MESSY

My son the law professor said it. Life is messy.

Like the view out the window of a speeding train, the landscape changes minute to minute. What was isn’t. What is wasn’t.

On Christmas Eve, 1979, the Soviet Union, led by the implacable Leonid Brezhnev, invaded the neighboring country of Afghanistan. It was a David and Goliath scenario. The mighty Soviet Union, with its nuclear arsenal, its sputniks in space and its powerful modern army against a primitive, tribal, disorganized country.

The Berlin Wall was still standing. Planet Earth shivered in a Cold War that divided humanity between East and West.

For the next eight and a half years, the Soviets tried to subjugate the Afgan people. But the locals refused to stop fighting. Student gangs, known as the Taliban, and other rebels and freedom fighters, called Mujahideen, fled to the mountains and kept up a continuous disruption of the Soviet occupation.

And, of course, the people of the United States cheered them. We had learned in World War II that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were the good guys.

And we helped them. The movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War” tells the story of how we did it. Our CIA sent guns. And missiles. And copies of the Koran, because we wanted to encourage the Mujahideen to see their struggle as divinely inspired.

In February of 1989, a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, called his soldiers home. Afghanistan had been his Viet Nam. On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Five months later, it came tumbling down.

Like a sudden change of scenery, September 11, 2001 opened the curtain on a new world view. The President of the United States, with the acquiescence of the Congress, ordered the invasion of Iraq. Nine years later, we are still there.

A new President, elected on a wave of anti war sentiment, now tells us that we are at war with Al-Qaeda. His army is in Afghanistan killing and being killed by the Taliban.

“Since 9-11 there has been an unfortunate confusion between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the minds of people who were previously unfamiliar with this region -- to the point where a U.S. member of Congress once expressed great surprise when I said the Taliban were not the people who [attacked] the World Trade Center," So says Barnett Rubin, Director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Of course the Congressman doesn’t know the difference between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Nobody in the streets of America does. To most of us, they are all Muslims. Fanatic Islamic Jihadists who grow their beards, subjugate and mistreat their women and regard Hugh Hefner’s America as an infidel nation.

Life is messy and war is the messiest part of it. Give a man a gun and he wants to know who he is supposed to shoot. In the good old days when Christian nations used to do battle with each other all the soldiers worn uniforms. You knew who the other guys were.

In Korea and Viet Nam, our people called all the natives “gooks.” The good gooks and the bad gooks all looked alike, but you were only supposed to kill the bad ones.

In World War II, we knew what we were trying to do. Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed that the goal was to achieve the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

President Obama says we are at war with Al-Qaeda. O.K., then what is our goal?

Are we trying to get Osama Ben Laden and his followers to surrender, so we can bring them all to New York and put them on trial for 9/11? That’s not war. That’s law enforcement. That’s criminal justice.

Or are we just trying to kill them? Kill Ben Laden. Kill all the members of Al-Qaeda. Kill all the fanatical Muslim Jihadists who want us dead.

That’s not war either. That’s genocide.

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