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Cutting to the Core

Rethinking the war in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan has been troubling me. It's not the recent increase in casualties or the gradual escalation of troops, those can be expected in any military action.

The recent change in my position has more to do with mistakes I see us making, which are mistakes I think we've made before. The mistakes became clearer to me when I decided to re-read an old book of mine, Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975.

This is a book with a collection of stories covering Vietnam during the war. The similarities with Afghanistan are eerie.

I have several problems with the way this war is being fought. Bush didn't do a very good job of it, but his mind was on Iraq and he focused all his energy, I believe, there. Obama, on the other hand, can focus all of his energy on Afghanistan, but I can't believe he is doing this by recent decisions he's made.

I don't have a problem with him adding more troops to the arena, which is probably necessary right now. I do have a problem with his continued support of Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

Karzai and President Ngo Dinh Diem (America's puppet president in Vietnam until a bloody coup in 1963) are similar characters. Both were installed by the U.S. Government and Diem was, and Karzai is, corrupt. Both were unable to unite their respective countrymen, although Karzai is still in the game.

A military advisor rhetorically asked a reporter why the American people should support a government that they themselves wouldn't tolerate.

This question was asked in the early 1960s, about the Diem government, but it is a question that can easily be asked today about Karzai's regime.

One nagging question that bothers me is how the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been able to wage war against the United States for eight years. How is this possible? It takes a massive amount of money to do this. Where are they getting their money?

I would guess there are foreign governments funneling money to the Taliban and Al Qaeda and I would guess that we know exactly who these governments are. How can we fight a war like this? It's pointless.

One source of income for the Taliban and Al Qaeda that's been identified is the opium trade. Afghanistan is famous for its opium and cautious estimates are that Afghanistan provides the world with nearly 75 percent of its heroin.

That's quite a bit.

I do remember Bush trying to take out these opium fields by spraying them with chemicals, something that was fiercely opposed by Karzai. Why would he oppose that? Doesn't it make sense to wipe out the source of income for the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

Well, Bush didn't rock the boat and now Afghanistan is producing record amounts of opium, giving our enemy ample amounts of cash to continue their war against us.

Recently the New York Times reported Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is involved with the drug trade in Afghanistan and is on the payroll of the CIA. For the record, Ahmed Wali Karzai denies these claims.

But it makes me wonder and it definitely makes sense of Karzai's refusal to spray the opium fields.

You see, the Afghan Government is corrupt. It means little to them if the Taliban's source of income is opium, as long as they get their cut. I have no proof of this, but I believe it to be true.

We have to remember that the Northern Alliance were not angels. They were thugs of the worst sort. Their reign of terror in Afghanistan before the Taliban came to power is exactly what led to the Taliban coming to power. The people wanted peace and order.

They got that with the Taliban, although at a price not too many people would like to pay. When Karzai came to power with our help I'm sure the Afghan people thought, "Here we go again."

The support of the Afghan people is crucial to any success we might have there. No matter what our intentions, we are nothing but invaders to them. Us pushing a corrupt government on them just makes them more suspicious and plays into the hands of the Taliban.

The turning point in Iraq was when we got the Sunni population to accept the government and turn on Al Qaeda in Iraq. We did this by bribing them, but it worked.

This needs to be done in Afghanistan. We need the people on the government's side. We need to go after other governments that give aid to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. If this means we go after Saudi Arabia, then so be it.

We also need to stop the opium production in Afghanistan. It can't be that hard, the Taliban did it. We could pay these opium farmers a good living wage in Afghanistan to stop farming. If that doesn't work, we can just eradicate it.

But I don't see these things being done or even being talked about and if we don't do these things I don't see the point of continuing the war.

It's time for the U.S. to make a big push to catch Osama Bin Laden and then call it good. We capture or kill him and then come home. Let the Afghanis fight for their own country. They are really the only ones that can.

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