Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Difficult Questions

Late last week I made what may have been a mistake over a cup of coffee by asking a Palestinian friend of mine what he thought of the attacks on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan earlier in the week (13 September). He quickly told me that he was not supportive of the attacks and was deeply concerned with the ongoing Middle East violence. He said that he was also concerned about American actions in the area and reporting in the American press and asked me three questions along those lines.

First, he asked why it is that when we “take out” a Taliban or Al Qaida leader we say we weaken these organizations but we systematically take out our own leaders when we rotate units and leaders back to the U.S. and do not acknowledge any degradation of effectiveness in the war zone. Second, he asked why the U.S. press and pentagon characterize the successful attacks last week as an indication that Afghan forces are unable to provide for their own defense without U.S. help and ignore the fact that they were unable to do so WITH U.S. help. Might the U.S. presence as an occupying force motivate the attacks? Finally, he found Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the action of suicide bombers in the attack as “cowardly” ironic. He asked if this characterization implied that firing a missile from a drone from 7000 miles away was any more heroic. He then offered me a “bonus” question and asked why it was that the U.S. supported the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt but not in Bahrain, the West Bank or Gaza.

I did not have good answers to any of these troubling questions. The only consolation from the conversation was that he bought the coffee.

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