As I Was Saying…

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Osama Who?

May 28, 2008

This morning’s paper contained a brief story about a new book by former White House mouthpiece Scott McClellan with the jaw-breaking title What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. As described, the book reminded me of a posting I wrote five years for a private blog. Here it is in its entirety:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
—Rudyard Kipling

I’ve done pretty well, I think, in keeping politics and the news of the day out of this blog. But enough is enough. You have to wonder if anyone in Washington has ever talked to anyone in the Middle East? Have they ever spent five minutes listening to an Afghan or an Iraqi?

In 2001, we heard a lot about Osama bin Laden, but a lot less about him lately. Our guys couldn’t find Osama, so we went after somebody thumbing his nose at us in plain view. The Russians could have told us about Afghanistan, but apparently our leaders had no questions. The thousands of Afghan refugees living here in the U.S. could also have told us a lot, but apparently there were no questions for them either. At some point, our government pretty much quit looking for Osama and started gunning for Saddam instead. We’ve heard all sorts of reasons for this that may play like beautiful music to the Republican faithful but not so well for the rest of us.

How could American policy makers at the highest level not know that there is a ferocity in the Middle East that is alien to the American sensibility. The Afghans possess it in abundance, and apparently the Iraqis have it as well. It seems as if the folks in the White House thought that by now both Afghanistan and Iraq would be pretty much like Indiana, settling in for a summer of picnics and baseball games. They don’t seem to realize even now that these people do not want to be like us. They may have hated the Taliban in Afghanistan—they may have feared and loathed Saddam in Iraq—but that doesn’t line them up to become Western-style democracies.

As prior posts to this blog have made abundantly clear, I am not a particularly religious person, yet I am praying daily that some sort of useful insight will reach our national leaders. Naturally, I’d like to see some of them hung up to dry, but I’d really settle happily for a change of course in U.S. policy for the Middle East.

Attention President Bush: If you won’t listen to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, if you won’t listen to seasoned diplomats the world over, if you won’t listen to any living person who is not a member of your inner circle, will you at least drag out your old sophomore English lit anthology and read a little Kipling? I doubt that you actually did much reading back then, but you might learn something from it now.

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