Published on Sunday, November 11, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
The Sacrifices We Must Make
by Stephanie Salter
"This is not an instant-gratification war."
-- George W. Bush .
To the people of Afghanistan (cc: UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, United Nations World Food Program, et al):
I'm writing to you on behalf of my fellow U.S. citizens to explain why you must be patient -- even if it means several million of you may starve to death this winter.
From what I hear about the leaflets our military dumped from planes over your land last week -- urging you to turn in terrorists in your midst -- it still might not be clear why we are doing what we are doing to you, i.e., dropping bombs and making it super hard for relief agencies to bring you food.
First of all, though, let me repeat what our president has said since we began to bomb your country: We are your friends.
Our enemy is Osama bin Laden and the Muslim extremists who fought and bullied their way into control of you folks.
True, we once trained bin Laden and -- like the rest of the world -- stood by and watched the Taliban shred your human rights and shove your country back into the first millennium. But that was because our enemy then was the Soviet Union and communism, and the Taliban were fighting them.
In case you don't know, the United States hates communism. It is the exact opposite of everything we stand for: freedom, justice, peace, the highest regard for human life. Fighting communism made us some nasty friends over the years, for sure, but that's a price we were willing to pay.
Speaking of costs . . . To put it as simply as possible (I know many of you can't read), our very way of life here has been threatened. We are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to respond. That sacrifice includes you.
I know this must be hard to comprehend -- so many of you live in mud huts and all. But if you lived here, you'd understand. Our way of life is the best in the world, better than yours (obviously), better than in places we like to vacation (France, Italy, Holland, New Zealand), better even than in Great Britain, our close pal.
In a nutshell, we are worth more than you.
Please, don't take this personally. (Remember, we are your friends.) It's just the way it is, no matter who's president or which party controls Congress.
In 1945, do you know what President Harry Truman said a few hours after we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and killed about 140,000 people, most of them civilians?
In an address to the nation, he said we had destroyed Hiroshima's "usefulness to the enemy."
More recently, there's Madeleine Albright, the first-ever woman U.S. Secretary of State. During a May 1996 interview for the TV program "Sixty Minutes," she was asked about U.S.-U.N. economic sanctions causing the deaths of a half-million children in Iraq.
"I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima," said the interviewer, Leslie Stahl. "And, you know, is the price worth it?"
Albright said: "I think this is a very hard choice, but, the price, we think the price is worth it."
What I'm trying to say is, you people are more accustomed to dying, early and in large numbers, than we are. For you to lose 5,000 people in one day is normal. For us, it's beyond horrible. If 5 million or 6 million of you have to starve so we can avenge our dead, so we can -- keep your fingers crossed -- get bin Laden and keep him from ever doing this to us again, it's a price we're willing to pay.
I promise you, most of us will feel bad for you. And, when it's all over, those of you who survive will be in for good times like you've never had. We might even come in with some kind of mini-Marshall Plan that will help you set up a real democracy, just like ours. Imagine, living in a society where individuals matter and every life is precious.
Until then, hang in there, OK? Your American friends care.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle