Guest post from the eldest Roach:
For as long as I can remember, I guess I have always had a slightly different view of life than most people. In retrospect I guess my different view of life in my younger years often crossed swords with conventional wisdom, usually leaving me on the losing end of an argument. Perhaps the best example I can give concerns a high school senior year writing assignment in an English class. The teacher said to read the assigned book and turn in a paper describing our thoughts. I read the book and turned in my paper. Shortly thereafter I was summoned to the teacher’s desk to explain why my paper only contained my name in the top right hand corner. My answer did not go well, “I read the book and didn't think there was anything in it worth writing about.”
Both the teacher and my mother were horrified. Perhaps my mother, even more than the teacher. My explanation was I had followed the instructions to the letter: no thoughts, no words needed. If the objective was to write 500 or 1000 words about the book, the assignment should have been put in those terms. This argument was lost on my teacher and my parents. However, I did learn from the experience. People don't always mean what they say or say what they mean. As a result, as I have aged, I seem to have either more questions or fewer answers.
For example: I wonder if 9/11 had not happened, would we have our troops engaged in Iraq today? It is becoming clearer each passing day that the hard line policies of the Bush administration bear no relationship to terrorist attacks against our nation. Rather, the current policies seem almost to guarantee that we are less safe and possibly more likely to future attack by terrorist forces. I for one feel much less secure today than I have felt at any time since 9/11. How secure do you feel?
Another example: I wonder how long it will take for the Bush administration’s War on Terror to become an even greater disaster than Vietnam, and for the exact same reason? While never acknowledged by most, Vietnam was basically a war for the hearts and minds of the people of Vietnam. We lost the war early on but pursued it for far too many years while trying to prove that it was about defeating communism. It is becoming clearer with each new disclosure that Iraq, and possibly the whole Middle East, is not about a terrorist threat to our country. It is a war for the hearts and minds of people and we are rapidly putting ourselves at risk by being there and betting on the wrong side. The underlying drum beat of anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions is no way to win friends and influence people.
Homeland security raises questions for me. We have spent close to $176 billion to fight a war of choice in Iraq. Iraq did not threaten us despite the claims made of such a threat. Nor did they attack us. Their armed forces were safely bottled up by a relatively small and inexpensive force sanctioned by the UN. We chose the timing and the plan of attack. It was our war, not Adam’s. I wonder, how much of the Homeland Security that the Bush administration says we can't afford could we buy with the $176 billion? Could we better protect at least some of our most vulnerable ports? Could we begin to devise a better system of air-transport security? One that really works, providing real protection without just burdening air travelers? And, thinking about Homeland Security, I also must wonder what we have bought with the money we have spent? While touring the East Coast last spring, we stopped in Washington D.C. I was amazed at the amount of construction underway and the security in place. Each of the buildings on the mall open to the general public were fully staffed and patrolled by security guards examining each purse and back pack. Around the mall the Capitol Building, the White House and the Washington Memorial were all fenced off while new construction was completed. I have no idea of the cost of all this, but I assume that all of it was financed by funds designated as “Homeland Security.” Three and a half years after 9/11 and we are still securing the Capitol. The same is true of the massive security and construction in Philadelphia around the Liberty Bell. The Bush administration has claimed that they have thwarted and prevented terrorist attacks against the homeland. I would feel more personally secure if they would be a little more specific. I know enough about politics and public relation to feel quite strongly that if they had any real successes, we would not have to wait for them to be leaked by a new Deep Throat.
Another question cuts to the heart of the War on Terror. This war began with the attacks on our country by an identified group. In the ensuing four years (more time than it took us to recover from Pearl Harbor and defeat Germany, Italy and Japan) we have spent almost $176 billion in Iraq. I wonder, if even a small portion of that sum had been spent in Afghanistan in the year following 9/11, would we have captured Osoma? If shock and awe had been launched against the Taliban rather than against a state that had complied with UN demands to disarm despite the Bush administrations claims to the contrary, would terrorists be more disorganized today? Would we still be having more terrorist groups organizing each day, each posing a new threat to our national security? Would we have sustained the casualties, both among our troops and Iraqi civilians? And would our armed forces be a higher levels of strength to provide a stronger defense should it be needed in the future?
As a youngster, I think I felt that questions, usually had answers. As I progress through my mature years, I find that questions are often more likely to lead to more questions, because people don't always mean what they say or say what they mean.