Only because Margaret asked

The other day my mom told me that George Will had written a column about why we should get out of Afghanistan. I couldn’t do more than glance at it. I love George Will and respect his opinion, and so I can’t bear to read his reasons why my husband is wasting his time right now and why my family is suffering for nothing.

I guess with the recent 9-11 anniversary, the whole issue is on the minds of many.

The ever wonderful Minnesota Mom emails me:

Love to you all. I am offering up my Mass today for your family. How is Bill doing? I just read that there was another outbreak in Afghanistan which made me wonder, why are we there? Forgive the dumb question, but really? Do they want us there? Are we winning?

I know you’ll have an opinion.

First of all, I know there are many of you who are praying for my husband and me and my family. I thank you all. It helps us, truly.

Secondly, Margaret knows me well. I almost always have an opinion. I have a vague recollection of not having an opinion once. It’s not a common experience.

So I respond:

Why are we there? Are we winning hearts and minds? Are we making a difference? Should we make a difference? Should we care about these people a world away? Do they want us there? Should we stay or should we go?

I can’t answer all of these with any political correctness.

And I don’t know how other wives or mothers feel. I speak only for myself.

We have a poor country whose only hope for survival is to grow poppies and sell them to the world to support its drug habit. We have a country with a government too weak to keep out corruption or evil influences that would use the land to harbor, train and support terrorists and their structure. We have a country that went backwards in development and made educated women quit their professional jobs to wear burkas against their will and stay at home.

From a social justice standpoint, is it not the obligation of the strong to help and defend the weak? Are the rich not to help the poor? Do we stop ministering to the downtrodden because THEY have lost hope? Is it not possible to teach people how to better their lives, and at the very least make a difference in one person’s life for one day? To fill a hungry belly for just today, to put shoes on one child’s feet, to show them the promise of the future by embodying all that is good in the world for one day?

Why Afghanistan? Well, from there arose the center of attacks against the US. If we leave, they will simply reestablish their bases. The Taliban is still there. They are fighting and waiting for us to go. They won’t stop until they are decimated. That, unfortunately, means death, for us and for them and for civilians who harbor them and for civilians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. War is awful. Better our soldiers (less than 600, I believe, since 2001 – most of the soldiers have died in Iraq, not Afghanistan, although that is changing**) than our civilians.

From there is the supply of most of the world’s opium. Drug use is a serious problem in this country and in others. Drug addiction destroys people, lives and families. We can and should fight a two-front war: prevent drug use by educating people and prevent drug use by making the supply scarce and expensive.

Do they want us there? It depends. If you like making easy money from poppies, NO. If you like the Taliban, NO. If you fear the Taliban and know that if you are friendly to US Troops they will kill you and your family, then it may be difficult to welcome US involvement.

What should we do? I don’t know. We can’t save the whole world, and certainly not all at once. I am glad I do not have to make these decisions.

All I know is this: if 5 or 10 or 20 or 40 years from now, Afghanistan is a better place due to our involvement, then I will believe that my husband’s sacrifice (whether that is simply missing his family for 6 months or if it ultimately takes a limb or his life) and my family’s suffering will not have been in vain. If we walk away, and Afghanistan goes back to the way it was in 2001, then this was all for nothing. The 600 dead, lost for no good reason. My children’s pain at having no father, even if temporary, will be for naught. We would have done better to have simply dropped a few bombs a la Bill Clinton and left it at that.

We have had no more attacks on our soil because we have been keeping them engaged elsewhere. Where should we fight them? Afghanistan? Iraq? New York City? Or should we let them win? Do you want your daughters or granddaughters wearing burkas? Would you like your children or your grandchildren to see the cathedrals of Europe? Would you like to see the cathedral of Notre Dame turned into a mosque? Europe is the frontline for the cultural battles and they are seeing a fair number of deadly attacks on civilians as well. If Europe collapses, then the new frontline is HERE. We won’t leave our country a better place for future generations if we can not respond to this fight now. We may not think this is a holy war…but they do.

So that’s my two cents.

I like to bounce my thoughts off my husband because he usually provides a different angle on issues and helps me hone or alter my opinion. Unfortunately, I don’t have that option right now, so these thoughts, which he will read long after most of you, are unshaped by his experiences and opinions.

At the conclusion of my rant, I asked Margaret if I just shouldn’t turn the email into a blog, and she thought yes, because she would like to hear other people’s thoughts. So, let us know how you feel. Should we stay or should we go?

** As of September 10th, there have been 746 deaths in Afghanistan and 4,343 related to Iraq.

14 thoughts on “Only because Margaret asked

  1. I don't have a husband in the military so, I do not have a very personal view of this conflict.Our family is not doing much sacrificing. My brother is a colonel and pilot in the AirForce reserve. He was in Desert Storm and has been over to the middle east several times since this war started.He has always believed the United States must be over there.Everything we hold sacred depends on it….his words.I believe him and trust him.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I'd hate to see them leave before the job was done. More than I'd hate to have to go through another deployment. I'm angry now. I think I'd be really, really angry then.

  4. When I first met my husband, he was attending schools that took him off the deployment list. It wasn't until years later, after we had gotten married and had our first baby, that he was deployable. I wanted to be informed about where he could be going. I felt like I had a decent handle on Iraq, but Afghanistan? I didn't know anything beyond the initial ousting of the Taliban. So I started reading books about it. One I would highly recommend is Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. The book covers the history of our involvement in Afghanistan from Nov. 1979 until Sept 11, 2001. One thing the book makes clear is that one of the reasons we had a Sept 11th, was because we completely pulled out of the country when the cold war ended. If we do the same thing again, why shouldn't history repeat itself? We must see it through to the end this time. Does it worry me that there is no exit strategy in sight? Yes, but I am more worried about what might happen if we leave too early. Know that good things are being done over there; things that not only have an impact on the local population, but the entire world. Not everything is reported in the news and many missions are classified. Besides, as Michelle rightly points out, as Christian we are under an obligation to help our neighbors. In an increasingly global world, it's getting harder and harder to pretend that only those within our own borders are our neighbors. Are American lives more valuable than Afghan lives? Is an American soldier's life (who volunteered for this job, remember) more valuable than the Afghan boy who was picked up by a terrorist to be used as a human shield? If someone were to put the two of them in a room with you and ask you to pick one to die, could you do it? Those who say enough American blood has been shed, bring the troops home have already chosen. The irony is their choice leaves the path open for more terrorists to be indoctrinated, more American civilians to be killed, and renders the sacrifice of the American troops and our allies pointless. Why are we there? We are there to try and fix past wrongs. It was our cold war which flooded the area with weapons. We are there fulfilling our social obligation to help the weak and defenseless since we as a nation have been blessed with strength and wealth and comfort. We are there so that Sept. 11th will stand out in history as an isolated event rather than the first in a series of attacks. We are there so that children the whole world over will have a better chance of growing up in an environment free from the fear of death for themselves and their loved ones. Is this worth all the heartache? I think so. And I'm so glad we live in a country where people ask these questions! Turning a blind eye towards the government usually ends up in grief.

  5. My response is on my blog.

  6. If anyone has questions about why we should be there, read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. These books, though novels, represent the truths of how horrible life in Afghanistan has become since the Taliban. There has always been some sort of civil unrest there, but I think there are people there who would love nothing more but to live in peace and in freedom. The media cannot portray accurately the good we are doing there-because it's political and partisan. Anyway, those books will forever change your views of the good of what our soldiers are trying to do. The difference we are trying to make. Honestly, the human rights abuses by the Taliban are horrendous. So, I don't think it's simply about us-maybe I am being Polly-Anna, but I do believe that when we go into a country, we have at the heart of our motivations, a real desire to better the life of the people of that country, at least trying to give the hope of peace and freedom. God Bless our soldiers and their families!!!!!! mcm

  7. So well put Michelle, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Although I feel that is easy for me to say, as my immediate family is here in the U.S.

    I believe that the Taliban knows that there are a lot of Americans that will want to give up, and that they are just biding their time.

  8. Stay. Freedom has always been an integral part of our people and we've always fought for it, no matter where. We tried once to isolate ourselves from the World's idiocy and fighting but we only got sucked in at a later date.

  9. Stay!

    One of the most relevant things I can say to the Catholics reading this is, do you remember the readings at Mass yesterday? “There's your sign.”

    For the non-Catholics, the Gospel was from St. James & I hope someone helps me out here with the details.

    While Afghanistan is a tougher nut to crack than Iraq, they deserve no less than their Iraqui brethren. Due to the bias of the mainstream media, we do not know all the wonderful things that have been/are being accomplished in Iraq, but we can certainly do that in Afghanistan!

    Lastly, we must stop the Islamofascists THERE so we don't have to try to stop them HERE. And they WILL come HERE.

  10. Mr. Angoraknitter says the biggest point is, “to prevent it from becoming a safe haven for the taliban again.” I know at one time I asked him if he thought about this as a possible thesis topic, but there do seem to be lots of folks focusing in on this topic right now. From all my ease dropping and over the shoulder reading it seems that while Afghanistan has a long turbulent history…our goals need to stay simple and I don't think we can expect to change this ancient society much if at all. Too many have tried, and too many times the society has waited out the foreign inhabitants when they tired of the land and the conflict. If anything we're endanger of giving up too soon. Afghanistan expects that we will give up…as everyone else thoughout their history has always done. However, keeping the Taliban from hiding within that land, and utilizing the area for their purposes seems all the goal we need to achieve what is most important. How to sustain it once we've acheived that goal?..I think we're still working on that one.

  11. Absolutely-stay!!

  12. As always, I so appreciate your blog. Have you read the books mentioned by 'Anonymous'? I know you are a busy homeschooling mom, but if you have a moment to spare here and there, they are worth reading. Our year in the SW is over and now we are back to our real job in a country neighboring Bill's current locale. Life is not easy here either. The Light is needed. And they deserve the opportunity to accept or reject it.

  13. I wish I had something to add or something super profound to say. I don't. At all. I just love the way you put this and thought you should know.

    Thanks again.

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