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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 17, 2008 at 12:01 PM

Troops to Afghanistan

Not where we want to go

Rick Larsen writes about his Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan, where, during a military briefing, a suicide bomber exploded himself killing several people [“Success in Afghanistan requires U.S. commitment,” guest columnist, Dec. 11].

Having heard the blast, it seems that Larsen had his first opportunity to experience what the veteran community calls a “gut check.” Unfortunately, it appears to have failed at shaking up his worldview — something that happened to both of us during our experiences in war.

It seems that Larsen’s own complicity in the destruction he witnessed that day has escaped him. For someone who has supported the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, it is disappointing that Larsen is so unable or unwilling to give himself credit for the state of disarray of those countries. He tells us that “now is the time to refocus on Afghanistan,” but we have to ask: Why have you, a member of Congress, lost focus on a war you helped start?

And do we really want to know what good his (and the rest of Congress’) focus on Afghanistan will bring? Given the failure of federal intelligence agencies that duped Larsen into supporting these wars, we think it is safe to assume that Congress is as un-informable now as it was during the WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] scare in 2003.

Not only are Larsen and his colleagues ill-informed about the complex ethnic and sociopolitical problems of Afghanistan, they are missing the more obvious context — the substrate on which terrorism thrives is violence and occupation.

Larsen lists five things we need to do to “succeed” in Afghanistan. The first four points concern escalating our military involvement. The fifth concerns giving the Afghan people the support they need “to go to the polls” in 2009. But can elections under present conditions in Afghanistan lead to democracy, or will they only lead to the election of U.S. government-approved choices?

Larsen says a recent increase in violence in Afghanistan “threatens the progress we have made.” What progress? Things may look good to the “senior military and civilian officials” whom Larsen met, but how do things look from the tents and shelters of displaced and homeless women and children?

The poor make up a majority of the population, yet they are not listened to. They are the experts we should turn to concerning the needs of the Afghan people.

There is a people’s movement calling for a Democracy that includes an end to warlord rule, equality for women, food, education and health care for all Afghans.

Democracy cannot come from ignoring the wishes of the people we say we are helping.

Larsen reminds us that we have been in Afghanistan for seven years. Are seven years of war long enough to figure out that the President George W. Bush administration never supported freedom and democracy, or are we going to continue to liberate Afghanistan with bombs for another four or eight years?

We do not need more war. We need something that hasn’t happened during the Bush years: an honest discussion about peacemaking with people who actually want peace, freedom and democracy.

Larsen’s military option will not take us where we want to go.

— Bill Distler and Evan Knappenberger, Bellingham

Don’t give them

what they want

I disagree with Congressman Rick Larsen about supporting President-elect Barack Obama’s call for additional brigades to Afghanistan.

I have high expectations for the incoming administration, at least for domestic issues. However, the plans for so high a troop increase in Afghanistan worries me. Terrorism has thrived on the approach we’ve used in the Middle East so far, not to mention at the extreme expense of our reputation.

The recent story by Arundhati Roy, “The monster in the mirror,” makes plain how much extreme care is called for the Pakistan/India situation, even as we contain/decapitate al-Qaida as best and soon as we can.

So far, I am trusting Obama to take the lead in finding and developing the best negotiating team for this purpose and that if there is a way to bring the key players together on this, he will facilitate its design.

As Cherie Eichholz emphasized, the troops have been suffering, particularly due to so many tours in Iraq already [“Give them a break,” Northwest Voices, Dec. 15]. How can they do their job when they are also worried about having a family to come back to, let alone a functional body and mind. As Eichholz said, “It is now time to honor our commitment to our veterans” as they have sacrificed so much for so long.

— B. Christopher Pringer, Seattle

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