Let’s leave Afghanistan – The Graveyard of Empires | SummitDaily.com
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Let’s leave Afghanistan – The Graveyard of Empires

by Martin & Ruth Hertzberg

Afghanistan, a landlocked, mountainous nation in central Asia far, far away from the U.S., has been called the “graveyard of empires” by none other than our own General Petraeus. It is a backward, mostly Sunni Muslim nation where women are covered with burkhas and seen only through their peepholes. In 1975, Ruth visited the smuggler’s market in Lundi Khotal where bricks of hashish were sold openly for $20. Every man in the market was brandishing his rifle, and some were firing them into the air. It was a scene from our wild-west! Opium is still the major crop of Afghan farmers. It seems like an odd country to be the “graveyard of empires”. Thus we might ask, which empires?It started as far back as Alexander the Great (no “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for that Macedonian warrior) who died in 323 BC. It continued through the Safavid dynasty of Persia, the Moghul dynasty of India (1400-1650), the Czarist Russian empire, the British Empire, and more recently the Soviet Communist empire’s war there (1979-1989). None succeeded in conquering Afghanistan. So why are we there now and why has President Obama ordered some 21,000 more U.S. troops to deploy there? Is Afghanistan destined to follow Vietnam as another graveyard for the U.S. empire?Somehow the U.S. “war on terrorism,” originally declared by the Bush administration against al-Qaida, has morphed into a war against Iraq (which had no connection to the 9/11 attack), and is now a war against the Taliban (whose connection to world-wide terrorism is equally dubious). It appears we are again witnessing the chronic disease of the Pentagon: “mission creep.” The additional 21,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan are no more welcome there than were the armies of the previous imperialist empires that invaded that country. As its current President Karzai has said: “They cannot welcome you if you are going to kill their children.”Let’s be realistic. General Petraeus was admitting that we are an empire involved in an imperialist war attempting to forcibly impose our cultural dominance over weaker nations, and also partly, to exploit their natural resources, which in the past were typically gold, oil, and labor. For the U. S., imperialism started in earnest with the Spanish-American War (1899), continued with our “gunboat diplomacy” in Central and South America, and should have ended with the lessons of Vietnam. But it hasn’t apparently ended with Barack Obama’s election even though he opposed our imperialist adventure in Iraq. Today, the U. S. has over 700 military bases scattered over the globe.There is a simple way to tell who is right and who is wrong in a military conflict (assuming that it really matters to you). If your military is fighting on your land, in your airspace and on your adjacent seas, then you are in the right to be defending yourself. But if your military is fighting on someone else’s land, or airspace, or sea-space, then you are on the wrong side of history and justice. The Allied military in World War II were the rare exception: expelling the foreign German and Japanese aggressors from lands they had previously conquered.Our troops in Afghanistan are fighting a new enemy, the Taliban, but on their land. The Taliban is a vicious, unsavory group of religious fanatics, but are they really a threat to the U.S.? How many more innocent Afghan men, women and children will we have to kill as “collateral damage” with unmanned drones before all factions in that nation turn against us? How many more American soldiers will sacrifice their lives in that “graveyard of empires?” The number of innocent Americans, Iraqis and Afghans who have perished in our “war on terror” in the Middle East far exceeds the number of innocent Americans who were killed on 9/11.We need to treat Afghanistan and its people as nicely as we can, and then expeditiously leave. Let them solve their own problems between the Taliban, the Pashtuns, their northern tribes, and all the other factions. We need the wisdom of past ages to guide us to end the suffering of the Afghan people, leaving them to solve their problems, hopefully in peace. It is Pakistan’s responsibility to handle the remnants of al-Quida in their land, and we can help them but not with our unmanned drones and the “collateral damage” they inflict. Let us finally end the bloodshed of empires in Afghanistan.Drs. Ruth and Martin Hertzberg live in Copper Mountain.


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