War on Terrorism

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Are Some Lives Worth More Than Others?

 Commentary by Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)

This question has been asked since the beginning of time and lots of answers have been offered.  However, in America, we like to think in terms of equality.  All people are equal, we declare, and we repeat this over and over, at every opportunity.  We take great pride in just how fair-minded and enlightened we have become.  Right now, at this very moment, the Supreme Court of the United States is actually deciding if a marriage between two homosexuals is, indeed, a valid marriage.  To think otherwise, the conventional wisdom goes, would be to place some people and some beliefs above others and that simply will not do, not in America in 2013.  This is what we like to tell ourselves, that all Americans are equal in every way, in life and certainly in death.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Americans  may think it is true but it is really a lie.

For the past five days, the news media has been reporting, non-stop, on the two terrorist’s bombings that occurred in Boston on Monday afternoon, at the close of the Boston Marathon.  No one knew, in the beginning, how long this full court press of media coverage would continue but it soon became clear that it would continue as long as the crisis persisted.  After all, these bombings have now been officially declared terrorist attacks and we should all be deeply concerned about terrorist attacks against Americans, right?  Three Americans are now dead and many more have been wounded so we have every right to be outraged, right?  President Obama, after taking a whole day to decide that this was a real terrorist attack,  has said that those responsible will be apprehended and punished.  How could it be otherwise?  What choice did he have?  After all, three Americans were dead as a result of a terrorist attack using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the nation was focused on Boston and whatever else was going on in the world was now in the back of the bus!  Finally, on the fifth day, Friday, the crisis was over.  One terrorist dead and the other in custody.  Everybody gave a collective sigh of relief.

So, are all American deaths at the hands of terrorists treated the same?   We know they are supposed to be, but are they?  To find the answer, consider this.  For three Americans to die as the result of an IED placed by terrorists in Afghanistan is a very common event.  It happens with alarming regularity and when it does, it doesn’t even move the media needle ever so slightly.  The last time three Americans died in Afghanistan on a single day as the result of an IED, the same kind of device that killed the three people in Boston,  was on April the 6th   in Zabul Province.  The three Americans were Specialist Deflin Santos, Staff Sergeant Chris Ward and Specialist Wilbil Robles-Santa.  You probably didn’t hear about this because these deaths were not followed by around the clock coverage by the media.  In fact, there was precious little, if any, media coverage at all.  

Why is this the case?  Are civilian lives worth more than military lives?  Does it matter where the terrorist attack takes place?  Apparently, the answer to both of these questions is yes.  Over 2,200 Americans have died in Afghanistan during the past eleven years as a result of an unending series of terrorist attacks but this fact does not seem to resonate with Americans.  Life goes on here day after day and no one seems concerned other than those directly affected, such as a wife or a mother or a father.  Yet, in all of these eleven years, no event in Afghanistan has ever dominated the news outlets for more than an hour at most, certainly not for five  whole days.  And we can only speculate just how long the Boston bombings post mortem will take, as an endless series of talking heads will attempt to explain it to us.  

This terrorist attack in Boston immediately became the priority for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.  The President had pledged that those responsible would be brought to justice and it is now going to happen.  There is nothing wrong with this, of course.  It is only fitting since they died as a result of a terrorist attack and it is nice that the President took a personal interest in this case.   What do the families of those killed in Afghanistan get from the President?  They get a letter signed by an auto pen, and the letter says that their death was not in vain and a lot of other things but none of this is  true.  

The truth is this.  The nation has moved on from Afghanistan.  That was yesterday’s news.  No one cares about those that are still dying there.  The name of the game now is to simply run out the clock and come home at the end of 2014, just like our latest agreement with the Afghan government states. However, it is instructive at times like this  to remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place.  We went there to conduct a military campaign against terror and terrorists, the same kind of terrorists that kille4d three people in Boston on Monday.   In fact, we even gave it a name.  We called it the Global War on Terror or GWOT for short.  Unfortunately, over time, we forgot why we were there and what we were supposed to do.  We simply assumed that terrorists would never again strike inside America again, so we forgot about how deep the hatred for American values were in the rest of the world.  We also forgot that a very large part of the world hates us for no reason other than the freedoms we guarantee to all Americans.  We also forgot that there really is a jihad, or Holy War, being waged against us.  And, saddest of all, we forgot about the military that was fighting an uphill battle to keep these terrorists out of America.  If any good can come out of this recent tragedy in Boston, perhaps it will come in the form of a wake-up call for America and a deeper appreciation for our young men and women who wear the nation’s military uniforms. 

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.

Click to read more about Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook

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