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February 3, 2012

None of Our Business

Roy Meachum

The Times of London reported this week: “The U.S. military said in a secret report the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw from the country, raising the prospect of a major failure of western policy after a costly war.”


NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, confirmed the official document. And I thought of Winchester Cathedral, not the hit record from the 1960s.


While in England, I visited the real church and discovered it has become a memorial to the Royal Rifles, which was established in New York, on the eve of the American Revolution. Knightly stone sarcophagi are illuminated during the day by light that enters through stained glass windows, many bought in remembrance of regimentals killed in 19th century wars. More than 20 years later, I recall a memorial for a subaltern lieutenant slain by Zulus spears on a now-neglected battle on some African river. I cannot summon up the young man’s name, or any other details.


In that era Great Britain raced to grab slices of the Dark Continent, in competition with France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands; the Italians later entered the fray. After World War II, the natives claimed their homelands back, in Asia as well. England’s colonial “crowning jewel” was sorted into India and Pakistan. What followed was justified on keeping the “Third World” free from Soviet Communist domination, until finally Moscow bade goodbye to territories conquered over the centuries.


Forming an alliance with the North American Treaty Organization nations, the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan; but there was no mistaking who was in charge. If the present international economic crisis can’t be attributed solely to George W. Bush’s military adventures – there’s a lot of blame to be spread around – the several trillion dollars wasted certainly contributes its share to today’s spending chaos.


Patriotism, as in 19th century Britain, was prostituted by greedy and ambitious officials and entrepreneurs in this country, not excepting armed forces commanders. General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower strongly warned against the Military Industrial Complex, which now clutches the nation’s throat. Current efforts to reduce defense/war spending have a substantial portion of the population on its feet. I’m not talking of conservatives and liberals.


Some see failure to maintain at bloated strength the uniformed forces as something approaching treason – no matter the losses in money and lives. My almost seven years in the Army brought me the World War II Victory medal; I earned a blue and white Korean service ribbon. Admittedly, I had no part in the staggering losses in Vietnam. However, I can see there have been no clear-cut triumphs since 1945, nor can there be. War has reached the stage when the winner is the combatant who lost less.


The story in The Times of London proves the point. As the Soviet Union was taught in the disastrous Afghan expedition, no one wants an outsider to dictate. Tumults in Muslim countries this past year reinforce the desire for freedom on all people’s parts. In simple fact, the colonial era was buried, chiefly by the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.


It’s long past the time when this country should recognize the part of the Constitution that, as Abraham Lincoln emphasized, we are not the sole people entitled to government for the people, of the people and by the people. If Afghans want the Taliban and Iraqis are in the mood for a Shiite rule, they’re entitled.


It’s none of our damned business.


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