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Guest op-ed: Afghanistan exodus proves that history repeats regarding US intervention abroad

By Warren Wright - | Aug 27, 2021

AP

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint on the road in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. The Taliban wrested back control of Afghanistan nearly 20 years after they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks. Their return to power has pushed many Afghans to flee, fearing reprisals from the fighters or a return to the brutal rule they imposed when they last ran the country. (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi)

Next month will be 20 years since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Little did we realize how much it would change the world and our lives. At that time, there was empathy and goodwill expressed toward the United States from around the world — even Russia. Most unfortunate, however, the U.S. government’s response was a gross overreaction rather than reflection and wise choices. More sober voices called for targeted international police action, but those in America, already on a crusade of regime change and “nation building,” won out and we know the disasters that followed.

In addition to an immediate, yet judicious response, there should also have been a very focused examination as to what brought on this attack and why? The truth is, the writing was on the wall for such an event for decades. We can refer to the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center; the intent was to collapse the base of one of the twin towers so it would fall into the base of the other. A good deal of damage did occur, with six people killed and more than 1,000 injured. Whether truthful or not, the terrorist group responsible for the bombing stated they did it to “avenge the sufferings Palestinian people had endured at the hands of U.S.-aided Israel.”

A few months after this bombing, I had a letter to the editor published July 13, 1993, in the Salt Lake Tribune, stating in part … “I am convinced that if we do not change our course and deal more seriously and sensibly with the grievances of the Islamic world (whether real or perceived), we will experience a devastating bombing in New Your City before the year 2000.” Even though my prediction was not accurate in fact, it was close to it in effect — so the 9/11 attack wasn’t a total surprise to me. Actually, since the day after the first Gulf War with Iraq ended in 1991, one knew ways would be devised to take “revenge” on the United States.

Regrettably, so many Americans are profoundly ignorant of the world around them. This was even true of our own Congress and executive branch at that time. President Bush was a painful example of such ignorance when he asked about the “vitriolic hatred for America.”

“I’m amazed,” Bush said. “I’m amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about, that people would hate us. I am — like most Americans, I just can’t believe it.” Dick Cheney showed the same lack of astuteness saying, “But I think everybody was surprised by it. … I thought like most Americans, that we were relatively invulnerable.” The same can be said for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld when using the word “incomprehensible” to describe the possibility of such a terrorist attack on the United States.

In reply to this state of ignorance, political and religious leaders from all over the world who love and admire the goodness of the American people, essentially said the same thing when it came to the question of “Why do they hate us?” It can be summed up by a reply from Bishop Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa when he responded: “People don’t hate the U.S.; too many have suffered from the effects of U.S. foreign policy; that is what they resent.”

If you care to read the chilling “Letter to America” of Osama bin Laden from 2002 (after 9/11), you can find the entire text on the internet. In part, he states, “To the United States, I say, I swear by God the Great that the United States will never taste security and safety unless we feel security and safety in our land of Palestine” and continues justifying his holy war because of “the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people.”

So what have we accomplished after 30 years involved with Iraq and 20 years in Afghanistan, with millions of civilians killed or displaced and trillions of dollars wasted? And going back further, what did we learn from France’s fruitless fighting in Vietnam from 1945 to 1955 when the U.S. took over for another 20 years? And what about the disastrous 10-year (1979-1989) Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which created a breeding ground for terrorism and the rise of Osama bin Laden? Well, you decide, but it appears to me we accomplished nothing and learned very little even to this day. (And so it goes on — consider we have had repeated warnings of global warming for over 50 years.)

The United States has been at war or unwisely meddling in the affairs of other countries all of my lifetime. How much better off we would have been if we had followed the counsel of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams from his historic address July 4, 1821, on U.S. foreign policy, when he stated as to America, “She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principle to which she clings. … But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. … She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice and the benignant sympathy of her example.”

The word “example,” as it is used here, is the key, and where we have so failed!


Warren S. Wright resides in St. George.

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