September 12, 2007
What have we accomplished in six years?
It was a beautiful Sunday in early October. A few friends and I had gone to a rock climbing gym in eastern Massachusetts (I was living in Connecticut at the time, but most of my friends were in Boston). The scene is crystalized in my head: I was midway up a wall, concentrating on choosing my next handhold. It was my first time climbing, and I was loving it, largely because of the way it forced me to focus. Worries and depression were supplanted by where to put my hands and feet.
I paused, though, to listen to the radio. President Bush was speaking, and while there had been a lot of posturing over the previous couple of weeks, I was still inclined to listen when he spoke. War — something I’d always considered to be relegated to the history books — seemed imminent. Indeed, until this past weekend, when I tried to find that particular speech, I thought Bush had declared war that day. I see now that he avoided using those particular words:
On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime. . . .
More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps; hand over leaders of the al Qaeda network; and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price. By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.
The most notorious of the “leaders of the al Qaeda network” was, of course, Osama bin Laden, about whom Bush said the following:
“I want justice,” Bush said. “And there’s an old poster out West… I recall, that said, ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive.'”
The evidence points to Osama bin Laden having masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (plus he’s been taking credit for the attacks for six years). Going after him, and al Qaeda, made sense, though I would always prefer our country take the diplomatic route over the military route.
So. We invaded Afghanistan. Guess what? It’s not on the news nearly as much as Iraq, but we’re still there. And then less than 18 months later a variety of reasons, from weapons of mass destruction to 9/11, were used to invade a second country: Iraq. We got Saddam Hussein, and as much as I am loathe to indulge in conspiracy theories, it does seem rather like personal interests fueled that fire. And where is Osama? Don’t know, don’t care, apparently.
Six years have passed, and what have we accomplished? Rather little. And what has it cost us?