It was an iconic moment, George W. Bush at his authentic best talking to rescue workers and a shocked America from atop a heap of 9/11 rubble. Just three days after those awful sights of collapse and death the president stood there, arm around a firefighter, bullhorn in hand.
Someone yelled, “Can’t hear you.”
“I hear you!” said the commander-in-chief, “The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Loud cheers ensued at the site and far beyond.
The cheering has long since died, replaced by political and military exhaustion, appropriate disillusion, political opportunism, and incalculable suffering.
Less than one month after Bush’s remarks, following a night of air bombardment and Tomahawk missile attacks, the first commandos – American Green Berets and Delta Force with the British SAS — were on the ground in Afghanistan foraging for Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders. To be followed at one point by more than 100,000 American troops and thousands more from NATO allies.
Nearly 800,000 Americans served at least one deployment in that God-forsaken land. No one knows how many suffered PTSD.
Now – 7,206 days, 3,596 allied deaths, more than 20,000 wounded, and three presidencies later – the withdrawal of the last 1,900 U.S. troops is underway, scheduled for completion by Sept. 11th, the 21st 9/11 since the first and the tenth since Benghazi.
The troops’ original goal was to destroy terrorist training camps, oust the Taliban, and capture bin Laden. The first two came easily and quickly. Then arrived the temptation to ensure that Afghanistan never became a terrorist haven again by building a new nation in a place that is not a nation.
And what has all that time, ammo, money, lives, blood, materiel, shattered hopes accomplished? “The security situation is not good,” said Gen. Austin Miller, a former Delta Force captain and the 17th U.S. commanding general there.
In fact, the security situation is awful. Maybe worse.
Like most insurgents facing superior organized armies, including American revolutionaries and Vietnamese communist guerrillas, the Taliban fade away to
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