Friday, September 01, 2006

The missing war: Afghanistan

Congressman Barney Frank reminded us a couple of days ago in the Boston Globe that the Bush administration is neglecting the war in Afghanistan. It was the Taliban that harbored Al Qaeda before and after the September 11th attacks. Our country and most of the world were united in the need to topple that regime and go after those responsible for the attacks on our country. The attacks on the U.S. triggered a response by NATO.

While successful in kicking the Taliban out of power and establishing a democratic government, adequate troops and resources were not committed to the big battle with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the mountains of Tora Bora. As a result, Osama Bin Laden remains a free man almost five years after the September 11th attacks and large numbers of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaped into Pakistan from where they continue to this day to carry out attacks. The fighting has in fact been intensifying.

Adequate resources have not been committed to this impoverished country to assist in its rebuilding and the central government does not have complete control of large segments of the countryside. As a result, opium cultivation is returning.

Congressman Frank points out that the Bush administration rarely mentions the war in Afghanistan, preferring to only talk about Iraq. This administration has used the threat of terrorism as a wedge issue and discussions about Afghanistan would remind the public Democrats and Republicans alike are united in the fight against terrorist. Discussion of Afghanistan might also remind people that things are not going well there in recent months.

Congressman Frank writes,
A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location
in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it
has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been
sorely distorted as a consequence.

The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because
it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be
deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by
the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because
acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political
opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.

During the years after World War II, academics popularized the
concept of the ``big lie." This is a technique successfully used by some
European regimes to manipulate the public perception of reality. It turned out
that if enough people in official positions simply repeated things that were not
true, and found elements in the media ready to reinforce them, lies would be
believed and truths forgotten.

…the fact that the Bush-Cheney claims that Saddam Hussein was
involved in the 9/11 attacks have been totally repudiated does not stop the
administration and its allies from equating willingness to combat terror with
support for the war in Iraq.

Not only does support for the Afghan struggle demonstrate our
willingness to resort to war in self-defense, but one of the reasons why the
Iraq war does America so much harm is that it has diverted attention, resources,
and support from Afghanistan. Violence is rising there, along with the drug
trade, and support is eroding for what we had hoped to establish as a democratic

Whether or not one subscribes to the geopolitical aims that
motivated the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq, it is clearly invalid
to assert that support for that war is the indispensable badge of one's
willingness to confront terrorism. Only by adopting the techniques of the big
lie can the vice president make his case that those opposed to the Iraqi war
fail to understand the importance of a firm response to terrorists. In fact,
given the deleterious effect it has had on our effort in Afghanistan, and the
enormous boost it has given to anti-American forces around the world, the big
truth is that the Iraq war has damaged our ability to fight

Americans were united in their response to the mass murders of
9/11. The war in Iraq has weakened the United States internationally and divided
it domestically, while draining needed resources. It is precisely because the
Iraq war is not defensible on any other terms that the Bush/Cheney approach uses
the big lie to defend the war in Iraq on grounds that in fact describe the war
in Afghanistan.

You may read the entire article here.

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