Thursday, August 6, 2009

Snagged or Snarled in an Unwinnable War

Afghanistan worries the dickens out of me!
by Charlie Leck

The United States just doesn’t learn very well from its mistakes. I believe we’ve gone and done it again.

We never should have gotten ourselves involved in Vietnam in the late 50s and then escalated matters in the 60s. It was clearly a guerilla war and those are unwinnable. After all, there’s no opponent with whom to actually negotiate. The fight is against a force on its own very familiar land. They can be citizens and villagers one instant and dangerous enemies the next.

We’ve had the same example shown us in Iraq. There will never really be an end, for the U.S., to the war in Iraq. We will one day just leave, even as we did in Vietnam, and then the local forces will just have to work things out and stabilize their nation, just as happened in Vietnam.

And now we are in Afghanistan fighting a guerilla war. The enemy fights from land he knows well. He disappears and becomes an innocent civilian. He reappears and becomes a dangerous weapon, fully prepared to sacrifice his life in the most violent ways.

How did it all happen? Why are we there?

Steve Coll, in his remarkable book, The Bin Ladens, has a credible explanation. We were suckered in by the master of the sucker punch, Osama Bin Laden himself.

In the year 2000 Osama sent some of his Al Qaeda suicide bombers up against the mighty American destroyer, USS Cole, as it was anchored in a Mideast Harbor. The two attackers blew themselves up and took seventeen sailors with them and left approximately thirty others injured. Only a few months after the event Osama Bin Laden was quoted as saying:

“We did the Cole and we wanted the United States to react. And if they reacted, they are going to invade Afghanistan and that’s what we want... Then we will start holy war against the Americans, exactly like the Soviets.”
The terrorist did not get the response he wanted. He began plotting something more dramatic that would get the attention of the Americans and would lure them into his trap.

Osama Bin Laden wanted the Americans to come into Afghanistan, pursuing him, so badly that he began putting together an unimaginable plan to fly hijacked American passenger aircraft into a number of targets on U.S. soil. The initial plan called for planes to attack all over the U.S.. It was scaled back to make it both more realistic and to give it a higher possibility of success.

In October of 2001, Osama Bin Laden was interviewed by Taysir Allouni, a reporter for Al-Jazeera. Allouni asked about the killing of so many innocent civilians on 9-11.

“It is very strange for Americans and other educated people to talk about the killing of civilians,” Osama replied. “I mean, who said that our children and civilians are not innocents, and the shedding of their blood is permissible.”

The President of the United States readied a military plan. He would send our forces into Afghanistan to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. The trap was sprung. The mighty terrorist of terrorists had gotten his way. He promised to defeat the Americans even as he had overwhelmed the Soviets.

In October, only a month after the collapse of the Trade Towers, we almost bagged Osama in Tora Bora. He narrowly managed to escape. As the months and years advanced, Osama Bin Laden built his guerilla forces with his own wealth and additional funds supplied by nations in the Middle East that would enjoy seeing us defeated.

Now we are trapped in a murky war that has no mission and no end game. We’ve been deflected from our initial mission and our main purpose in going there – to get and kill Osama Bin Laden. Now we are involved in tribal politics about which we know so little, if anything. The enemy is indefinable and vague.

I fear that we have been trapped not only by Osama Bin Laden, but, as well, by history itself.

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