A documentary has just come out called Restrepo. The film recorded the experiences of a regiment in Afghanistan over the past two years. The 173rd Airborne Brigade was deployed in the remote Korengal Valley. It shows young men, trying their hardest to do the right thing, while thinking thoughts about the indisputable fact that some of them will die there, and often the thought, “What are we doing here?”
It’s been over nine years since September 11, 2001, the worst attack on American soil in our history. It was a coordinated, well-organized, deliberate attack. Americans responded, by banded together, giving blood, support and whatever was needed to help those who were affected.
The members of congress stood together and joined hands on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America.” People from all walks of life, from college kids to pro football players, volunteered to serve in the armed forces to defend our country and the freedom it stands for.
President Bush rose to the occasion, giving one of the most stirring and forceful speeches in our history, that was applauded by even non-Bush supporters such as myself. He declared that Osama Bin Laden would be captured “dead or alive.” That other countries were either ”with us, or with them.” That any country who gave safe harbor to members of Al Qaeda would be entered without regard to their sovereignty.
So what happened? Why is Bin Laden still out there, and even over the past nine years periodically released videos? Why is Al Qaeda still in existence and controlling part of a country? Why did we not chase Al Qaeda into the mountains of Pakistan? Why do we hire companies to provide support services for our troops instead of doing the jobs ourselves? We are the most powerful country in the world, and we can’t defeat a band of hoodlums hiding out in caves?
The answer is simple. Bad leadership. We have been sorely let down by the people we elected to lead and protect us. The worst attack in US history, and the attackers got away with it. Not only that, but it also emboldens other terrorists that are out there to keep trying. After all, they know they have a chance to get away with it.
After the attack, and after his great oration, President Bush and our congressional leaders could have called for a draft, and for factories around the country to devote, say 10 percent of their output to the war effort. After all, in World War II, we devoted up to 50 percent of our domestic production to the effort to win the war. The mood of the nation after the attack was one of great patriotism, and there wouldn’t have been a lot opposition if a plan was laid out and the government expressed clearly and definitively what was needed to defeat the enemy.
With the full might and power of the United States behind it, we could have easily overrun Afghanistan and rooted out Al Qaeda, finished our business, and gone home. Not only would justice have been done, but terrorist organizations would think twice about any attempted attacks after that.
Naysayer’s have said that we couldn’t do a full-scale invasion, because too many innocent civilians would get killed. I beg to differ. In war, people die. There’s no way around it. I do feel bad for those caught in the crossfire, but like the people of Japan or Germany, their country allowed this to happen.
Instead of treating this like a national calamity requiring the most effective possible response, we sent out our volunteer army, which by many reports was not as well-equipped as they should have been. Then, after a relatively short period of time, we took many of those troops out and sent them to Iraq. On top of it all, the Bush administration enacted tax cuts, which had never before been done during wartime, and took the war costs “off-budget” so the deficits wouldn’t look so big.
Meanwhile, the war has faded into the background, especially with the economy becoming the central issue in our political discourse these days. In fact, you usually find stories of the soldiers killed no longer even on the front page of newspapers anymore, or leading off the evening news.
What’s the big deal about some soldiers getting killed in Afghanistan? It pains me that it’s not taken more seriously. Every one of them has a family, a mother and father whose lives are affected; a wife or significant other devastated. Sometimes children who will never know their father or mother. And yet, our politicians in Washington seem oblivious to what’s going on over there, with no commitment to go all out to win or a clear goal and strategy to reach it so our soldiers can return home.
Our leaders should be ashamed of themselves for this travesty. This is no political issue, as some of them have stated. This is young American men sent to fight and sometimes die. If this effort is worth losing the lives of even one American, isn’t it worth trying to win? Are we at war or not? If we are going to continue to do this half-way, then we shouldn’t be there at all. Either fight to win, or get out. Hey Washington, anyone paying attention?