Monday, June 20, 2011

Still Waist Deep in the Mig Muddy ...

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, envoy to Afghanistan, lobbed a parting shot at the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the weekend. According to an NPR report today, Eikenberry told university students in Herat that when Afghan leaders call the United States an occupying force it becomes difficult for him to look the family members of slain U.S. soldiers in the eye and explain to them what their loved one died for.
I'm sure that job is always difficult no matter the circumstances, and I do not envy those who must do it.
On the other hand, what does the ambassador expect from the leaders of a country we've been occupying for almost a decade? Moreover, we're occupying a country with a long and storied history of resisting outsiders.
On top of all that, Karzai is more warlord than president. When you lie down with dirty dogs you're going to get fleas. Reading Eikenberry's comments in the Post this morning -- "I must tell you that I find occasional comments from some of your leaders hurtful and inappropriate" -- I couldn't help thinking that Eikenberry harbors a secret wish to be like Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam in the early days of that war. When Lodge got tired of South Vietnamese President Diem he simply green-lighted a coup and had him removed. Ah, the good old days.
Coincidentally, the Post carried a front page story today about the ways that American politicians profit from their incendiary sound bites. Say something outrageous and donors line up to contribute.
It's a lesson that President Karzai obviously understands. His remarks are clearly for the benefit of a domestic audience that has grown weary of Americans bombing their countryside.
Really, what do we expect from Karzai?
Really, what do we expect from the Afghan people?
We can claim the moral high ground all we want. Eikenberry told his audience yesterday that "America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world. We are a good people."
After ten years of war and occupation those words must ring pretty hollow to families whose lives have been destroyed.
Really, what should one tell the survivors -- American or Afghan -- at this point about why their loved ones are still dying a decade on when al Queda is long-gone from Afghanistan, when bin Laden is dead, when the Afghan politicians are making political hay at our expense, when no good purpose is being served by our continued presence?