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Failure to Let Our Soldiers Be Soldiers Endangers Us All

January 9, 2002

The situation would be farcical if it didn't so seriously endanger us.  I refer to the repeated escape by Taliban/al Qaeda leaders from circumstances where we should have easily captured them.  So far, I can count four such instances:

  • Taliban leader Mullah Omar escapes from the surrounded city of Kandahar
  • Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escapes from the Tora Bora caves
  • Mullah Omar escapes again, this time from the mountainous region north of Baghran
  • Seven senior Taliban officials, after surrendering, are allowed to go free by the governor of Kandahar province

And let's not forget the local Afghan soldiers who were supposed to be gathering intelligence information on our behalf -- information which could very well enable us to avoid the next planned WTC-magnitude attack.  Instead of turning over the materials to us, they were selling what they had found --  passports, videotapes, computer disks -- on the streets of Jalalabad!

The common thread here is that the U.S. didn't want to commit its own ground troops to search and detain these wanted terrorists, but instead, relied on proxy local forces to do so.

President George Bush told the country in his speech before the Joint Session of Congress that "We wage a war to save civilization itself."  Osama bin Laden, we know, is trying to secure nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, such as biological germ warfare agents.  We are in a race against time. 

As long as bin Laden and the rest of them are free, they can plan and implement new terrorist acts against us.  It's true that they can't move about in the open like they once could.  But they are still much more able to harm us than they would be were they in our custody, or dead, as they should have each been a couple of times already, but for our seemingly iron-clad rule about putting our soldiers in harm's way -- even if it's to save civilization itself.

Amazingly, some officials speaking on behalf of the Bush administration try to tell us these delays are okay.  Referring to the hunt for bin Laden, Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, a senior military spokesman, said recently "If it's a little slower, that's O.K., we can live with that."

No, it's not okay, not with me, anyway.  I don't want to be in the location where bin Laden or some other al Qaeda operative, still unnecessarily on the loose, sets off a nuclear bomb, or spreads smallpox or Ebola fever.

Why are we hiring proxy forces to fight the "dangerous" part of the war against terrorism?  We've already hired quite brave, competent people to do so: they're called the U.S. armed forces.

The U.S. military is voluntary.  No one forced any of them to join.  We're paying their salary to defend us.  We don't need to pay a substitute army to do so.

It's not the soldiers I am criticizing here, it's the politicians.  I'm sure everyone in the military from the army private to the highest commanding officers would be only too happy to get on the ground and really do what it takes to find the al Qaeda terrorists still on the loose.

But it's the faint-hearted George Bush and his political advisors, scared to death of jeopardizing his high poll standings, who refuse to allow the military to do the job it is incomparably equipped and most willing to do.

I know some readers have told me they are in the military.  I'd be real curious to learn what the rank-and-file feel about being shunted aside on the ground while the security of their loved ones at home --  not to mention the rest of us -- is at least partly put in the hands of proxy forces who at the next change in the way the wind blows, would be as likely to be fighting against us, as for us.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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