In one of the many exit interviews Gen. David Petraeus has given as his command in Afghanistan comes to an end, he made the following statement: "No country has suffered more from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida than Afghanistan."
This comment stopped me. Partly, it was the pat sweep of the superlative. But there was also a gratuitousness in his flipside demotion of the American experience since Osama bin Laden (OBL) and his gang first struck here nearly 10 years ago. The catastrophic terror attacks of 9/11 on our political and economic centers caused, and still cause, an extremely deep and aching degree of suffering.
The attacks also marked the beginning of a decade-long American crack-up, a self-ignited meltdown of reason and judgment that blinded us to the markers of global jihad across the Western world. As a result of this meltdown, our see-no-Islam leadership has sent armies to fight endless, foundationally flawed wars of impossible conquest -- Muslim hearts and minds -- through gross expenditures of lives and materiel. More than any one person's, this policy is Petraeus' policy. But even at this retrospective moment in his career, he doesn't have to answer for it because neither he nor it is ever even questioned.
Not even when Petraeus slips in a new U.S. objective, as he did in another recent interview. Our objective, he explained, "is Afghans able to secure and govern themselves with some continued level of support." With some continued level of support? Forever? Not so long ago, the U.S. objective was Afghans securing and governing themselves, period. That ain't gonna happen. Plan B seems to bump up Afghanistan to a permanent multi-trillion-dollar giveaway program, a new lockbox of untouchable entitlement.
Paul Avallone, an Afghan war veteran who later returned to Afghanistan as a photojournalist, emailed me that what bothered him most about Petraeus' salute to Afghan suffering was that Afghanistan, more than anyone else, had actually gained from 9/11.
"I came to that conclusion during my first stay in Afghanistan (combat in '02-'03)," Paul writes. He realized that everything the U.S.-led coalition was doing, from freeing people from the Taliban to feeding them, was an Afghan benefit. Nothing has changed. "Start anywhere you want," he continues. "Roads. Electricity. Food. Medicine. Whatever it is that billions of dollars per year are buying."