"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
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