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Politics and Reality: Words and Tears

October 19, 2009

Following is a snippet from a news item in the CNN on line edition about the Afghanistan war:

“The president is asking the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Among the things the Obama administration wants to know from Afghan leaders: “Do you have a credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services that the Afghan people need?”

The United States faces “a much more complex decision” than just determining the appropriate level of troops, Emanuel told CNN chief national correspondent John King in a rare interview.

“It’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift, that we’re beginning at scratch, just at the starting point … and that there’s not a security force, an army, and the types of services that are important for the Afghans to become a true partner,” Emanuel said.

Echoing comments from Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, Emanuel said it would be “reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop levels if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create.” Source: CNN

The above observation by White House Chief of Staff shows the Obama administration in poor light. This is politics at its worse. This one statement is a crude attempt at showing the world that the president is serious about Afghanistan, that his priorities are right and that he is making an educated assessment of the situation. The facts are otherwise. If Gen. McChrystal is saying that there is a need for higher troop levels, then that should be enough. The easy way out is to blame all on the previous government. The fact is that it is Obama administration that insisted that the troops should fan out and drive away the Taliban in his much talked about Af-Pak policy. For that more boots on the ground are needed. When this was not forthcoming the commanders on the ground had no option but to withdraw from posts setup out in the wild. One such post days before it was going to be closed was attacked by the Taliban in which eight American soldiers were killed. One of them was Spc. Stephan Mace. His story appeared on the CNN too. Below are excerpts of it:

When the Army flew home the body of Spc. Stephan Mace from Afghanistan, his mother climbed aboard a small jet with the flag-draped coffin for the last leg of his trip. Vanessa Adelson would not let her 21-year-old son make his final journey home alone.

“I brought him into this world, and he was my baby,” she said. “I thought it was my responsibility as a mother to bring him home.”

Mace and seven other soldiers were killed this month in a Taliban attack on their remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, making it the deadliest battle for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since July 2008.

The October 3 battle saw Taliban insurgents at one point surging past the outer perimeter of Forward Operating Base Keating in Afghanistan’s Kamdesh District. The battle lasted about 12 hours, with the most ferocious fighting raging for about seven hours.

The base, in a valley, is surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops. The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days. Since May, Mace had been on his first deployment in Afghanistan, following a childhood dream of joining the Army. He planned to continue his career in service after his Army stint by joining the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA, his mother said.

Instead, he will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery. Source: CNN

Stephen’s mother flew down to Afghanistan to bring back his body – the last journey for the twenty one year old. Does she care about Bush or Obama or who was right and who was wrong? She has lost her baby. The brave boy went down fighting, his friends and buddies in his home town lined up to salute the young martyr. For Vanessa Adelson life would be never the same again. They can argue endlessly about the right strategy for Afghanistan and do what they want but for Stephen’s mother it is the end of the road, as far as her son is concerned.

Politicians can be callous and selfish. To say that Afghanistan is ‘adrift’ because of the Bush administration is passing the buck. Obama administration is as clueless about the situation in Afghanistan as was Bush. There has not been a radical change in the way things are on the ground. And the bad news for White House is that it is the ground situation in any war zone that is critical. What ‘strategists’ are thinking or deciding in the White House or Pentagon is miles away from reality. The fact is that Obama and his advisors have realized that sending more troops to Afghanistan will be a very unpopular decision. They want to avoid sending more men to Afghanistan. They started by saying that the election results need to be verified before any troop increase can be decided upon. What has the election results in Kabul got to do with security issues? What if the Taliban decided to unleash hordes of their fighters on the Allied Forces, will they wait for the election results or will they reach for their guns and start firing? This is a ridiculous argument that just does not make sense. When this did not stick, they have gone to town hollering that the stupid Bush messed it up and saint Obama is trying to clear the mess left by dimwitted Bush.

Try explaining this to Stephen’s mother and the hundreds of families in US and Europe who have lost lives of their dear ones in mundane wars in yonder Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t care a damn. Not any longer.  And let’s be fair – there are thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men and women and children who have died in both Iraq and Afghanistan, whose deaths have shattered their families and their loved ones. We must spare a thought for them too. They are also human beings. Both these are needless wars and will not ensure a safer America or Europe or Asia. As said earlier in my columns, the source of terrorism is elsewhere and that needs to be identified and neutralized. Besides, we need to think more about our internal security. As for Spc. Stephan Mace he fought for his country and did his countrymen proud. It is men and women like him who have this selfless zeal to go out and do something for their land and their people that make this world a place worth living.

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