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A Reply to Mir Tamim Ansary's Article on Afghanistan

Mr. Ansary:    "I've been hearing a lot of talk about 'bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.'"

Unfortunately, there's too much of that kind of thinking.  As Mr. Ansary notes below, the enemy is not the Afghan people, but rather the planners, financiers and perpetrators of these acts and those who harbor them and provide them with aid and comfort.  The Taliban 'government' should not be equated to the Afghan people.  (There are no free elections in Afghanistan.)

"Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio [San Francisco] today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but 'we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage.  What else can we do?'"

While true, that sentiment has the danger of becoming an excuse for indifference.  The actions appropriate for dealing with a threat should be commensurate with the threat.  In this case that will probably mean that some innocents will be hurt or killed.  If so, such a consequence should not be approached or accepted lightly.  And it goes without saying that it must not be our intent.  "Wars" are a messy business.

"Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we 'have the belly to do what must be done.'

"And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there.  So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing. 

"I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.  There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York."

While to date the evidence, such as it is, certainly points in his direction, what we've seen of it so far is only suggestive.  Before any physical action is taken, I for one hope that the evidence supporting it will be presented to us in some detail.  The last thing we need is to have it come out at some future date that in our haste to strike out at someone, anyone, for this atrocity, we selected a target of opportunity and chose the wrong group.

Least I be misunderstood, I am as anxious as anyone to see these thugs punished for their crime.  But bombing a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory because of faulty intelligence does us no good service.  Let's be sure before we act.  Then let's act.

"I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

"But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan.  They're not even the government of Afghanistan.  The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997."

Calling religious fanatics "psychotics" does nothing to further our understanding of what motivates these people.  And in order to defeat your enemy, you must first understand him.  (Please do not confuse  understand", with "accept" or "excuse".)

Dismissing them as "psychotics" may make the speaker feel good.  But that puts us on the wrong road.  Evil should not be equated with psychosis.  These people are not maniacs.  And the failure to understand that can cost us American lives and frustrate our efforts to emasculate them.