Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Haunting Exchange In The Rio Chama Valley

We didn’t talk long but the conversation stayed with me. Our paths crossed high up in the Rio Chama Valley as that river makes its way south from the San Juan Mountains to flow into the Rio Grande just north of Santa Fe where we both stopped for gas.

He was a veteran heading south for home after clearing his head a bit in the Rockies following a tour in Afghanistan.  He also happened to be a Native American and told me a bit about the significance of that valley.

I was cutting north to Pegosa Springs before turning toward Durango, Colorado on the most recent of my two 6,000-mile cross-country round trips over the past five months.Osama

It was small talk on a bright, beautiful, Rocky Mountain morning near the Continental Divide.  I thanked him for his service to our country but when I told him I’m wasn’t at all sure the USA should be in Afghanistan, he just shook his head and muttered, “you’re right, we shouldn’t.”

This brief exchange kept coming back to me as I made my way through Michael Scheuer’s newly- published book, Osama Bin Laden.  Scheuer, who was chief of the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden Counterterrorism Unit in the late 1990s and a consultant to it through 2004, also wrote a 2007 book I had previously read entitled Imperial Hubris: Why The West is Losing the War on Terror.

The author is an outspoken critic of American leadership.  He believes it is misleading to the American people and a mistake to simply demonize an enemy like Osama Bin Laden but he’s clear about wanting to “bury him.”  As I finished the book I went back to a part where Mr. Scheuer summarized Osama bin Laden’s three central aims, translated from the al-Qaeda leader’s own words:

  • bleeding America into bankruptcy
  • spreading out U.S military and intelligence forces to the point where they have little reserves or flexibility; and
  • stripping away American allies and creating as much political divisiveness as possible in the United States.

Seems like he’s doing pretty well so far, no?  The point of Scheuer’s book is that it’s not about “us" or our culture or democracy..“it’s always been about our foreign policy, stupid.”

The book tells of a turning point for Bin Laden before the first Gulf War when, after ignoring instead of heeding his incessant speculation about the intention of former Iraq president Saddam Hussein’s to invade his homeland, the Saudi government snubs his offer to rally an army of mujahidin veterans fresh from the Afghan victory over Russia to defend its border and instead permits the U.S. to establish a military base there.

I’m sure Scheuer would argue that the Saudis are still playing into Bin Laden’s hand by sending troops into Bahrain yesterday to quell protests there.

The alleged corruption in the Afghan government combined with its president’s repeated lecturing of the U.S. Military for not waging war more carefully and now coupled with the loss now of more than a million lives in the two wars, both civilian and military, and a monetary cost estimated to be $1.29 trillion by years end make me think Scheuer’s correct.

Maybe we’re just fulfilling Bin-Laden’s chief aims and we need to back up, pay a lot more attention to experts like Scheuer and get on the right track.  We need to revisit the lessons of the Vietnam War.

Looks like I might finally have found something upon which Glenn Beck and Ron Paul and I can agree!

In any respect, Scheuer’s books are well documented and well worth a read.

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