- Posted January 14, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Making 'Sense' of Afghanistan
MAKING 'SENSE' OF AFGHANISTAN
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BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 13, 2014 -- In a controversial interview with former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, the real-life hero of Mark Walberg’s magnificent portrayal of him in "Last Survivor" - this weekend's boffo box office surprise, collecting $37.85 million - Jake Tapper of CNN called the efforts of the United States in Afghanistan "senseless."
"I didn't say that," Tapper shot back when Luttrell challenged the term .
"That's what you said," Luttrell quickly responded, and indeed, it was what Tapper said.
But have the vast loss of human life and countless billions of dollars really been "senseless," as Tapper implies? Or is there the possibility that a useful meaning can still be derived from this war?
That's a worthy question for our time, when doubts and skepticism about government are rampant, and when Americans' faith in Congress is at an all-time low.
Let me disclose my own biases: I have few doubts and little skepticism about our government, and even fewer about our President. As a Democrat, but first and foremost as an American who cares deeply about our country and our people, I fully support him.
Moreover, I joined the chorus that rushed to sing out support for our response in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and a weak government had actively supported the presence of the al-Qaeda training camp where killers like Mohammed Atta and his compatriots were trained to kill innocent Americans.
I supported the "surge," the deployment of 33,000 new troops into that war, and I support the President's efforts to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. I would not do it as he is doing it, however; I would calmly order the destruction of every single Afghan poppy seed, field and processing facility, and leave Afghanistan with no apologies.
Although accurate statistics on heroin use vary greatly - Russian authorities say it has killed, 1 million people since the war started - at least 100,000 people die each year around the world due to heroin use, Wikipedia says. About 80 percent of that heroin is refined form raw Afghan opium grown on some 285 square miles of Afghan territory.
Once banned and then sharply curtailed by the Taliban, who were later driven out of warlord territory by NATO forces, the $65 billion heroin trade and 3.3 million workers in it are essentially "protected" now by the United States military. But a single Taliban-connected trafficker, Haji Bogcho, said to control 20 percent of the world's heroin production, was convicted of heroin distribution and other crimes in American courts in 2012.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the Taliban raised between $450 and $600 million over the past four years by "taxing" heroin producers and traffickers, according. The Taliban has also warehoused an estimated 12,000 tons of heroin, the UN said in a recent report, to fund itself in the future and to further attacks if moves against the poppy fields succeed.
If we wiped out the Afghan source of opium, I think, we could justifiably feel that our efforts there were not "senseless" but instead had spared 100,000 lives each year that otherwise would be lost to the corrupting and deadly influence of drug cartels and the heroin trade in America - which has cost us much more in lives than the Afghan war.
Unlike the President, I see little reason to leave 10,000 American troops behind in harm's way to protect the thankless, corrupt and incompetent government of President Hamid Karzai. They cannot save him or his government from the expansion of the Taliban; that's something only the self-engrossed warlords of the poppy fields could do - if they could free up their present preoccupation with opium production.
Perhaps if they lost those poppy fields, the Afghan warlords might feel it was foolish on their part to support the Taliban - they have distanced themselves from the terrorists, Karzai and the war. So far, though, they felt very little American pressure to plow their poppies under.
Black Americans, so many of whom gave their lives as soldiers in Afghanistan, have been the choice target of the warlords' marketing of heroin, and more than any other segment of American society have borne the brunt of the deaths and destruction of families heroin has brought to places like Harlem and Watts.
The President cannot identify himself as a black person in such a venture and then act as a caring, thoughtful and aggressive black person would, to destroy the crops that have killed so many African-Americans (and a goodly number of other Americans), but on that one stand his entire legacy could rest fulfilled and gratefully recalled. If he wiped out the heroin trade, or even pushed it elsewhere, Americans would happily forget the first missteps of Obamacare and embrace him as one of our greatest leaders ever. On his own, though, would he dare to do this?
Making the experience of lost lives and treasure less "senseless" would also raise the esteem in which America is now held by our principal European and Pacific allies. In the history books of a hundred years from now, they will say approvingly of Obama's Opium War that he wiped out the worldwide heroin trade. If he does not, perhaps his successor will, even if he or she is more poorly positioned to do it than Obama is.
It's hard and even painful to conjure rational and believable reasons not to feel our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a senseless waste. Instead of having been "decimated," as the President said six months ago they were, al-Qaeda is resurgent, having captured Fallujah - a city my beloved cousin Michael fought bravely to save - and Ramadi, another important Iraqi city.
Although recently deposed (for now) in Syria's largest City, Aleppo, they will persist in the achievement of the Fifth Caliphate through their new political and military arm, the Islamic State if Iraq and Syria. They are not defeated and we will not defeat them, because they are an idea, and while an idea can be suppressed with some success, as the Saudis have shown, it is not susceptible to defeat. The world will have to deal with that fact for centuries to come.
Indeed, it might better serve us to permit the establishment of a caliphate encompassing Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan than to wage war against pieces of it. That would give us an existing state to end the charade of "non-state actors," as they are called, to provide at least a clear diplomatic path toward resolution of our many differences.
Unfortunately, a caliphate would also consolidate into one enemy the principal foes of Israel, whom we would then have to more directly and powerfully support. Israel is always a war waiting to happen, and even the purported site of the world-ending Armageddon predicted in the New Testament.
As the Bible also says, "the poor will always be with us," and Israel will always be a militarily "needy" client state of America. Perhaps their privileged place in American politics is their just due for the destruction of so many of their people by Western powers before and during World War II in the Holocaust. Both Americans and Allied nations in Europe could have prevented it - had they cared more, tried harder and worried less.
It is of course said that the Holocaust was a "senseless" slaughter, and like the deaths of Marcus Luttrell's comrades-in-arms and thousands of other American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it certainly was. But that memory is at least a little kinder when we recall that the Holocaust led to the establishment of Israel, a nation that offers the Jewish people a place of joy and hope, refuge and support.
If not so lofty, the destruction of the poppy fields can still be a similar balm for the conscience of Americans who stood by and watched without an outraged shriek as our losses and costs mounted in Afghanistan and Ira