After Vietnam, we all thought "never again!". Our leaders surely had learned that it is futile to occupy another country because even the most high-tech army is no match for determined peasant forces defending their homeland.
Well, no. Two decades later, we are agonizing through two remakes of the original Vietnam script. It's enough to make a grown man cry. And that's just what political commentator Richard Reeves did: he pulled his car over to the side of a Los Angeles road because the radio news had brought him to tears.
"I was listening to the news on National Public Radio when there was another story about another death in Afghanistan. Pfc. Andrew Meari, age 21. A village called Senjaray. An Afghan on a moped pulled up next to an American truck and blew himself up, killing Meari and another guy. The Americans, my countrymen, were there, near Kandahar, working to win the trust and cooperation of the locals.
"They were paying the locals, sipping tea with them, giving them weapons and advice. The locals killed them. What hit me was listening to Spc. Robert Criss, who said Meari was his best friend: 'I don’t trust anyone out there. They just seem shady all the time. ... They duck around corners and [peek] out at us.'
Meari’s company commander said, "We were making inroads."
Reeves disagrees. "No we weren't. We were occupying their country—and they hate us. I was not crying for Meari, though God knows, he and his family deserve our tears. I was crying for my country, for the cowardice of our leaders who continue to send the same brave young men out again and again to die rather than admit they have no chance as strangers in a strange land."
Americans seem curiously silent about all this. Iraq and Afghanistan were not issues in the recent national elections. And the information from the war zones is diluted by triumphalist propaganda on powerful media outlets. "Did we even notice when the troops abandoned the Korengal Valley in defeat three months ago?" asks Reeves.
"Cry the beloved country. Shed tears for the brave. And for the cowards, too, the men and women in Washington who refuse to admit we cannot impose our will on the world—and certainly never will unless we are in a struggle where we are all engaged and all at risk." Spoken like a true, compassionate liberal.
35 minutes ago