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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 in fact.

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 progress difficult?

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?

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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Afghanistan War Strategy

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