Donald Rumsfeld Plays Word Games
While Women and Children Suffer and Die
November 1, 2001
As someone who supports
military action to eliminate Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist
group, recent events are quite disconcerting.
At a press conference today,
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked about recent criticism that
the war was progressing too slowly. Rumsfeld replied that we are only
in the early stages of the war on terrorism, and that the president had
repeatedly told the country that this effort could take a long time, years
Whom is Rumsfeld trying to
kid? The "war on terrorism" that everyone understood could
take years was the entire global war against terrorists, which would
involve, at the minimum, "smoking out" bin Laden from his hiding
places in Afghanistan, destroying his terrorist cells there and in many
other countries, and going after other terrorist groups which had global
reach and could threaten us.
No one thought that when the
president said the war on terrorism could take a long time, he meant the
part of the war against the Taliban. The talk before the war
began was that Afghanistan was so target-deficient that we would run out of
targets in a day or two. The Taliban would fall in a few weeks, if not
days. It would be a complete walk-over.
That of course has not
happened. Some Bush administration officials would have us believe
that they didn't know the Taliban were such tough fighters, and would hang
on for so long.
The reason for the glacial
pace of the war effort is that the Bush administration is conducting this
war like it has all the time in the world. It waited three weeks
before beginning even minimally heavy bombing with B-52's of Taliban front
line troops. Without the public and pundit outcry about the lack of
such heavy bombing, I doubt it would have started yet.
What disgusts me about this
attitude is that it ignores -- indeed seems not to give a damn about --
what's happening to the civilian population of Afghanistan. Hundreds
of thousands, if not millions are being displaced, fleeing the
bombing. What untold misery these and other already impoverished
Afghan men, women, children and babies are being subjected to, lacking
adequate food and having no available medical care.
In addition to the steadily
mounting toll of dead and wounded civilians from our bombs and missiles, it
is impossible to believe that thousands of additional civilians are not
succumbing to the deteriorating conditions as they flee, or cower in fear in
their homes under the American onslaught.
Americans feel anxiety, not
knowing when the next terrorist attack will hit. But at least when
Americans are in their homes, they can feel relatively safe.
But 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, no Afghan can feel safe at all. It must induce mind-numbing
terror to know that even in the sanctuary of one's home, at any moment an
American bomb or missile can come crashing through and obliterate you and
all you love.
This is not just in cities
like Kabul, but even in remote villages, which have been hit by errant
bombs, or sometimes apparently even been deliberately targeted
under the mistaken impression that they are Taliban hideouts.
The Bush administration's
take-our-time attitude just needlessly prolongs civilian suffering in
Afghanistan. Plus in a geopolitical sense, the longer the bombing
drags on, the more the Muslim world is enraged because the more it looks
like it is the Afghan people, not the Taliban who are being made to
suffer. And of course, the longer the bombing goes on, the greater the
number of previously pro-American Afghans who will rally to the Taliban, a
phenomenon that has been reported in recent days.
Don't we want the Taliban out
of power as soon as possible, so whatever resources that Afghanistan still
possesses will be denied to bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Shouldn't
speed be one of our goals, since as long as bin Laden is still at large, he
can be planning new assaults against us?
And shouldn't we want to wrap
us this phase of the war before the fierce Afghan winter arrives, torturing
even more brutally the Afghan people, and making any further military
Are we just going to bomb and
bomb and use small numbers of Special Forces advisers, and hope the Northern
Alliance can at some undetermined point in the future defeat the
Taliban? Polls show Americans are willing to suffer tens of thousand
of Americans killed in order to defeat the terrorists. No one wants to
see American casualties, but shouldn't we be using massive numbers of ground
troops to get the job done quickly, once and for all?
I can't help but think of the
Vietnam War and the U.S. contra war against Nicaragua, where the American
attitude seemed to be, if we can't defeat you militarily, we'll destroy your
country as an example to the rest of the world of what happens when you dare
oppose the United States.
Again, I want us to
destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It's our interminably slow, almost
lackadaisical effort that is so deeply disturbing.
The bottom line is: if, as
Donald Rumsfeld and the entire Bush administration claim, our war isn't
against the Afghan people, then why are we conducting the war in a manner
guaranteed to intensify and prolong their suffering?