May 16, 2011

Most versions of the Saint George legend tell us that when the great Christian slew the dragon, he went home. Task accomplished, deed done, dragon’s blood dry on his lance, and king’s daughter rescued, George rushed to the family hearth in Lydda, Palestine, to savor his triumph. Washington’s dragon slayers, fresh from their kill in Abbottabad, should consider his example. They chased the hoary-headed bin Laden from Kabul, hunted him in Tora Bora’s caves, sought him in Waziristan, and pursued his trail from the Hindu Kush to the Punjab Plain. Ten years, billions of dollars, and thousands of lives later, they found him in a rundown house and put a (silver, to be safe?) bullet into his head.

They took the bloody corpse away, inspected it, verified its provenance, and sent it down to Davy Jones’s Locker lest any followers entomb it as the shrine of a new cult. Osama bin Laden is definitely gone, dead, deceased, defunct, no mas en casa. Like Monty Python’s parrot, “€œ”€™E’s kicked the bucket, “€™e’s shuffled off “€™is mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleedin”€™ choir invisible.”€ He is gone and ain”€™t comin”€™ back. So why are American forces prolonging their tour in Afghanistan? The Bush Administration called the 2001 invasion Operation Enduring Freedom, but Obama is making it Operation Enduring Operation.

“€œThe United States, like the British and the Soviets before, will leave Afghanistan one day. How about today?”€

If the United States wanted an excuse to depart from a land where it has waged a Sisyphean battle for ten years, Osama bin Laden’s execution has provided it. The US has seen around 1,500 of its own soldiers killed, another 11,000 wounded, and more than that suffering mental breakdowns. US troops have inflicted uncounted numbers of casualties on the natives”€”both the rebellious types with weapons and those who happened to attend a wedding that was hit by rockets. The taxpayer is losing about $6.7 billion a month in what began as the hunt for Osama. Now that they”€™ve achieved the original goal, is anyone in Washington bidding farewell to the Hindu Kush? Alas, Washington gives every impression that it’s seeking excuses to stay.

Why would anyone want another ten years of killing and maiming?  The Veterans Administration hospitals (not to mention Afghanistan’s rural clinics) have enough with which to cope. Can the US taxpayer afford another few hundred billion dollars on a country that has never failed to expel every foreign army that ventured into its impoverished mountains and valleys? The United States, like the British and the Soviets before, will leave Afghanistan one day. How about today? Delay adds only to the cost without changing the outcome.


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