Diamond-Cut Life

More Joy, Less Stuff

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Anniversary Of 9-11: Needing A New Path

September 7th, 2009 by Alison · 2 Comments · politics

If you’re like me, it’s easy to pay almost no heed to the war in Afghanistan that started in retaliation for the 9-11 attacks of 2001. But with the eight-year anniversary a few days away, I’m going to look at it. This war is being fought allegedly to protect me, and also you, if you’re in the U.S. as I am. It’s gone on longer than our involvement in World Wars I and II combined, and it deserves our clear eyes and critical thinking.

Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times yesterday that President Obama should get us out of Afghanistan, rather than escalate and prolong the war as he is doing. Let me voice three reasons I’m convinced Mr. Herbert is right, and then tell how the war in Afghanistan relates to the diamond-cut life.

1.) This war continually kills civilians, which is morally wrong. You don’t have to be religious (though I happen to be) to find it morally wrong. The most recent instance was in a context of NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal having announced just in June he would be working to curb civilian casualties. The fact that euphemistically-termed civilian casualties and collateral damage (think: women and children charred beyond recognition) are a part of every war is a good reason to never go to war in the first place, not a rationale to keep pursuing this war.

2.) I feel more endangered by this war than I feel protected by it. If the average Afghani did not resent or hate the U.S. in 2001, he or she probably does now. This fuels terrorism. We can’t blame hatred just on fundamentalist or Taliban propaganda; we also have our own actions — an eight-year war — to blame. On September 11, 2001, we were the aggrieved party. In the eight years since, our military hammer has made Afghanistan the aggrieved party, with the Taliban alive and well despite being out of official power. Terrorists, the ones we’re so afraid of, are by definition people without official power, at any rate. So show me: How does this war protect you or me?

3.) The war in Afghanistan has cost (wasted) billions of dollars and thousands of lives. (I count Afghani lives here along with American lives, all human lives equally.) Those billions could be invested instead in life-giving economic development and health care, in either or both countries. But war is addictive, as author Chris Hedges has pointed out, a closed-loop system with its own twisted, self-justifying economy of death and profit. We need to break the addictive cycle, not perpetuate it.

4.) We will never win this war. I list this reason last for a reason: I don’t see “we can win” as an acceptable reason for war in the first place. As a stand-alone, the we-can-win rationale is just bully thinking, tantamount to the biggest kid in fourth grade shoving a smaller kid around because he can get away with it. But given that every war seeks to improve a bad situation, the ‘we can win’ rationale concerning Afghanistan is flat wrong. As with our hubris-driven war in Vietnam, the enemy are guerrillas who make themselves invisible and can survive forever, while the government we’re defending is corrupt and ultimately indefensible. The will of the U.S.  cannot prevail in Afghanistan, which brings me to my last point.

My theme here at Diamond-Cut Life is more joy and less consumption. More joy for who? Human beings, not just Americans. And less consumption for who? Those who have lots more than they need for quality of life, my belief being that everyone deserves a decent quality of life. How does all this relate to our war in Afghanistan? As with victims of violent crimes, people living in war zones are thrown so far back into just struggling to survive that any quality of life, shot at joy and happiness is shot out of the water. And the billions of dollars spent on destruction instead of investment in jobs and public health is the worst kind of consumption imaginable. It’s an anti-life brand of consumption.

I dare to think things shouldn’t be like this, that with our human power of choice we can do better than this. We need a pro-life ethic of consumption, one that rejects war, supports quality of life for all human beings, and the possibility of happiness. On the anniversary of 9-11, let’s think clearly about the war in Afghanistan that we allowed 9-11 to trigger, and tell President Obama that his continued war-path contains no victorious end-point, but is only a closed-loop, deathly ellipsis which itself needs to end.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Evan Wilson

    I wholeheartedly agree with your stance on getting out of Afghanistan…. just a few points that I thought of while reading your post:
    1. Regarding your very first point: not only is killing civilians morally wrong. Killing at all is morally wrong in my book! In my perfect world America responds with loving kindness to acts of hatred and violence (think Buddha or Jesus, and I’m not religious). So how do we (the pacifists) win the ideological war against the violent militants that are driving the agenda of this war and all others past and future (and justify doing so under a flag of patriotism)? I could debate with myself forever whether some wars (or even violence person to person) is justified out of self-defense - just a disclaimer before you reading this decide to go there.

    Secondly, whatever happened to bin Laden? Isn’t that why we went in? Maybe I’m just missing any mention of this fact in the media, but I haven’t heard anything about that guy in awhile. Which makes me feel (makes me certain) that Bush used (rightfully or not I cant decide) 9-11 as a sure-fire method to win the support of Congress (and us) in acting out some sick cowboy-indian fantasy in a dusty little country where the indians hate Jesus, oppress women and have no tolerance for democracy or freedom (its even hard for me to not want to “liberate” the Afghanis for these reasons - but I believe this is our cultural bias, which is a whole different topic all together!). One side point before I make my main point (thanks for bearing with me on this little rant): what about that loving kindness to push our cultural agenda in the world if that is what we must do instead of violent hatred? The results might not be so quick, but there is less gore.

    Okay, my main point is that Obama is continuing Bush’s war. Sure, he’s come up with some strategies of his own, but he’s still ultimately trying to finish what Bush started (the Taliban part - Osama is probably in Tahiti sipping gin and tonics on the beach and crying about having to cut off his beard and the Western nose-job so no one will recognize him - or 6 feet under somewhere in the mountains).

    I think Obama pulled the wool over our eyes (I voted for him and will likely do so again). As President of the United States, he doesn’t represent change from the status quo (maybe he personally does and maybe the system won’t allow him to exert that change). And to me - case in point - he doesn’t even represent a 180 degree change from Bush. Maybe just about 170.

  • richard pauli

    You are spot on.

    But Afghanistan is not really a war, it is a method of US self-destruction. Afghanistan just happens to be the selected theater arena.

    We will eventually wind down. Even military people know that the only way we will prevail is to engage in peaceful nation building.

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