Engelhardt covers a lot of territory, but he engages the reader with a crisp writing style and a stunning grasp of information. His conclusion, that Americans have been living through an Age of Denial, is, alas, incontrovertible.
At the end, Engelhardt offers a ray of hopeful light on his little “postcard.” This is the most problematic part of the essay for me, and one imagines the author may have simply run out of steam and was looking for a somewhat uplifting conclusion after his somber analysis. Will history somehow spare us again from the effects of our own destructiveness and stupidity? The fact that we survived the Cold War without toasting the planet with nuclear bombs may augur nothing for the future but the need for continued, extreme good luck. Our inability to learn the lessons of history has been profoundly depressing and Santayana gets the last word.
Dear Mr. Reese,
Too bad you ruined a good idea story, that the war in Afghanistan is as bad as the war in Iraq.
The idea that the people of Afghanistan rather enjoy fighting is a patently racist statement. You ignore the obvious: that imperial, racist countries like the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia enjoy invading and exploiting resource-rich nations that are too weak to defend themselves.
“So when the Bush administration demanded that they hand over bin Laden, the Taliban refused. It was in part a matter of hospitality. The laws of hospitality in that part of the world obligate you to defend your guests. The Taliban didn’t have a chance. The country had been in a state of war for nearly two decades, and much of it was just rubble salted with land mines.”
Charley Reese misses the main point and elides the secondary in favor of U.S. propaganda. The Taliban did not refuse to hand over bin Laden or anyone else. Rather they refused to hand over bin Laden without proof (Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Times, Sept. 22, 2001, page 1), and observed that while they had no extradition treaty with the U.S. that they did in fact have an extradition treaty with West Germany and in the light of the horrific attack on the U.S. were prepared to extradite any indicted as part of that action to West Germany, which could then extradite them to the U.S. (although due to Germany’s ethical stance, the U.S. would have needed to agree not to apply the death penalty to have anyone extradited from there).
The one thing that Afghanistan required before extradition could be considered was a proper certificate indicating: (1) that a crime recognized by the Afghan courts had been committed; (2) that appropriately identified persons within the jurisdiction of the Afghan courts were involved; (3) that a prima facie case against these persons existed; (4) that the persons had been indicted in the U.S.; and (5) that the persons would be subjected to an appropriate legal process. As the U.S. refused to comply with this request (Independent, Sept. 22, 2001, page 1), and indeed bin Laden has still not been indicted by the U.S. justice system, Afghanistan was not legally able to comply with the U.S. demands even after they had determined, over their cultural bias to take care of guests, to bend the rules due to the heinous nature of the criminal attacks on the USA. Subsequently, with the acquiescence of bin Laden, the Taliban negotiated a deal to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan where the U.S. could present evidence to an international tribunal. Musharraf, presumably under pressure from the USA, scuttled this deal (Telegraph, Sept. 10, 2004, page 9).
Note that the U.S. has repeatedly refused to consider extradition of criminals terrorists to other countries even where the above certification has occurred, e.g., Luis Posada Carriles, and definitely would not extradite anyone (other than George Bush’s “disappeared”) on the basis the U.S. demanded of Afghanistan. The U.S. attack on Afghanistan, like that on Iraq, occurred outside of the color of the law on the basis of poisoned fruit, as the approval the U.S. bullied out of the UN for the attack was obtained through false pretenses.
The fact that many people are as deluded on this issue as the neocons does not lessen Charley Reese’s complicity in propagating and perpetuating propaganda.
Memo to Philip Giraldi,
If it is legitimate for me to be armed, then it is legitimate for you to be armed. Any negation of that fundamental principle can exist only in a moral vacuum.
Moral nations should be getting rid of nuclear weapons. Israel and the U.S. could lead by setting the example.
History has demonstrated that nuclear weapons have little or no military purpose, that they are essentially implements for inflicting political terrorism.
We bombed Vietnam under and then we lost the war. Nor will we prevail from the air even with nuclear weapons.
The historical lesson is clear: In order to survive, we need to pull in our horns, and so does Israel.
The antiwar movement undercut its impact from the very beginning by attempting to straddle a moral divide. This divide is highlighted by the well-known phrase “support the troops.” More insidious has been alluding to military actors as “heroes.”
If traveling thousands of miles to attack a relatively defenseless population with high-tech weaponry is morally wrong then certainly all who engage in the activity, directly or indirectly, cannot be considered “honorable.” In our form of democracy each person is responsible for the manner in which they draw their conclusions and actions.
I remember well the time Bill Maher referred to the act of firing guided missiles from the safety of high altitude or aboard ship hundreds of miles away as “cowardly.” He received a tremendous amount of heat for this. His assessment was correct then as it is now. Even more now, since we have benefit of much hindsight.
Yes, the young soldiers being sent are not very mature or well schooled but that is no excuse. Not really! When a young person goes off speeding or drunk driving and ends up harming someone, they are held responsibly, and rightly so. Tragic as it may be there are serious consequences for bad actions.
The pushback of those against the hostilities has been seriously watered down by the essentially political triangulation of including those who thought we should treat the military differently as compare to the Vietnam era. The antiwar movement allowed itself to be mousetrapped in the vaporous dilemma. Peer pressure against the military is an effective and essential tool and it was unworthy to discard it. There can’t be honor in committing dishonorable acts no matter how stupid or immature one might be. Call it tough love!
Those who have been reading articles over the years at Antiwar.com might contemplate where we might be today had there not been such moral equivocation about the actors, the killers. The debacle might have ended sooner. George Bush may not have gotten is second bite at the apple. Surely there would be a divide in our country, but we are divided anyway.
I speak from some experience of having served my country and having been in positions of risk to help others, instead of harming them.
This article is a good start, but what about Time magazine’s new cover, deeming “Obama’s war” the “right war”?
Why is Bush a warmonger, but not Obama? His rhetoric is paving the way for more war in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan! Where is the outrage? For eight years I’ve seen the “War is not the answer” bumper sticker on every other car in L.A., but they have been slowly disappearing and replaced by the graffiti art pic of Obama and the words “Hope” or “Change” or “Progress.” Where is the outrage at the wars he proposes to get us into or deeper into? I guess as long as Obama says a war is OK, it is justified and we should get back to our main point: how do we hang Bush for war crimes!? (Oh, wait, I thought the main point was being antiwar! Well, you tell me.)
~ Brad Donohue