Afghanistan and the left

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on November 27, 2001

If you're not reading the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" every day, you should. Often informative, often witty, and often containing information that gets my Irish up, the article is full of inspiration for writing columns. (You can find a link to the Wall Street Journal in the links to the left.)

Today's inspiration, as noted in "Best of the Web Today," comes from James Carroll, one of the plethora of voices out on the far left of the American political spectrum. Carroll manages to demonstrate, in his column entitled "This war is not just," that scientists have succeeded in removing a person's brain, but leaving them able to speak, breathe, and write.

Carroll says he is skeptical of the methods by which the war in Afghanistan is being waged. He says he is skeptical of the justification being used for waging a war at all. He says he is skeptical of what the United States' goals are in waging war.

Unfortunately, he's not really skeptical, he's anti-war (for whatever reason), and anti-America. Carroll has every right to his opinion. Fortunately, the majority of Americans have the right call him....well, he predicts what will happen.

Anyone still refusing to sign onto this campaign is increasingly regarded as unpatriotic. Next, we will be called ''kooks.''

Carroll's language is a little strong. "Kooks" is an offensive term for mentally-ill people, and we wouldn't want to lump Carroll in with them. I think "stupid" is a better term.

Carroll believes the war in Afghanistan is unjust for three reasons, each more mindless than the one before.

First, ignorance. The United States government has revealed very little of what has happened in the war zone. Journalists impeded by restricted access and blind patriotism have uncovered even less. How many of those outside the military establishment who have blithely deemed this war ''just'' know what it actually involves? It is clear that a massive bombardment has been occurring throughout Afghanistan, but to what effect? And against whom? Is the focus on the readily targeted Taliban, in fact, allowing a far more elusive Al Qaeda to slip away?

Carroll obviously didn't do any research on what a "Just War" is. What constitutes a "Just War" can be found here. The United States' war in Afghanistan meets all of the tests, despite Carroll's refusal to admit it.

Let me answer Carroll's questions one-by-one:

Q: How many of those outside the military establishment who have blithely deemed this war ''just'' know what it actually involves?

A: I don't know, and I'm not sure that anyone can truly answer this question. I think that some reporters are smart enough can figure this out, but it's also clear that there are a lot of morons on television (and writing for the Boston Globe) that may not be able to.

Q: It is clear that a massive bombardment has been occurring throughout Afghanistan, but to what effect? And against whom?

A: Well, if Carroll had read a newspaper in the past week, it would appear that we have been able to run the Taliban out of northern Afghanistan and the capital of Kabul and force them into a small enclave around Kandahar. But I just get this from reading the newspaper...what hole has Carroll been in for the past week?

Q: Is the focus on the readily targeted Taliban, in fact, allowing a far more elusive Al Qaeda to slip away?

A: Well, one does not presuppose the other. Just because we're targeting the Taliban now doesn't mean that al Qaeda will slip away.

Does this intervention break, or at least impede, the cycle of violence in which terrorism is only the latest turn? Or, by affirming the inevitability of violence, does this war prepare the ground for the next one?

With this series of questions, it becomes clear that Carroll has spent too much time getting in touch with his feelings. Break the cycle of violence? This is the most stupid thing I've seen written since the script for "Battlefield Earth." Does Carroll really, honestly believe that if we didn't do anything after the twin towers were destroyed that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda would just figure: "Okay, we've punished them enough," and we wouldn't see another attack on America ever again? The only way we can stop terrorism is to kill all of the terrorists. It's pretty basic and pretty obvious when you think about it.

Third, wrongly defined use of force. This war is not ''just'' because it was not necessary. It may be the only kind of force the behemoth Pentagon knows to exercise, but that doesn't make it ''just'' either. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 could have been defined not as acts of war, but as crimes. That was the first mistake, one critics like me flagged as it was happening.

As perhaps the most savage crimes in history, the terrorists' acts should have been met with a swift, forceful response far more targeted than the present war has been. Police action, not war.

This war was not necessary? Could have been handled as a police action? If I recall correctly, the last time we called something a police action, people like Carroll came out of the woodwork, loudly deriding the use of that term. I'm all for truth in advertising. Vietnam was a war, and so is this.

If Carroll would remember back just a few weeks, this didn't start out as a war in Afghanistan. We asked, nicely, if you take into account what had just happened, for the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and his cohorts. They refused. As nice and tough as Sgt. Joe Friday was, I don't think he'd have gotten anywhere in Afghanistan.

The criminals, not an impoverished nation, should be on the receiving end of the punishment.

The criminals are on the receiving end of the punishment. Carroll, remember all the video of those food packets being dropped? How about the extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties. Yes, some civilians have been killed -- accidentally -- far fewer than the approximately 4,000 American civilians that were killed on Sept. 11 purposefully. Nearly every media report coming out of Afghanistan recounts how the Afghan people are elated to be free of the authoritarian rule of the Taliban. Girls are returning to school. Music is playing. Kites are being flown. Life is far better for the common Afghani today than it was just three months ago.

Undoubtedly, if they were ever to read this page, liberals like Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., Susan Sontag, and Noam Chomsky would decry my attack on Carroll's free speech. As if free speech were something that would insulate someone who writes something stupid from being called on the carpet.

I'm proud to say that only in America would a newspaper like the Boston Globe have the freedom to print a piece of useless drivel like that produced by Carroll. And only in America do I have the freedom to dissect, decry and destroy it.


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November 2001



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