Word from Winkler — Is this necessary?

President Obama has announced that tens of thousands of additional U.S. and NATO troops will deploy to Afghanistan in coming months. Hundreds of billions of additional dollars will be spent on the war. Many more people will die. Is this necessary?

I traveled to Pakistan in early 2002 with leaders of our United Methodist Council of Bishops. We went to the city of Quetta, near the border with Afghanistan, to deliver aid to Afghan refugees. Some refugees had fled more than 20 years earlier when the Soviet Union invaded their country. Others had fled the civil war that followed the Soviet departure. Still more had arrived in Pakistan after their homes were bombed by U.S. warplanes in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.

War creates misery
and desperation.

Tragedy surrounded us.

Afghanistan has known only war for 30 years. War creates misery and desperation. The Taliban arose as a force of students who proclaimed their intention to bring and end to the mindless bloodshed created by power struggles between various warlords. They pledged to bring order and peace to the country.

The methods of the Taliban were brutal and abhorrent, though. The Taliban used violence against violence. It was intolerant of any opposing views and killed many thousands of people. And, it permitted a wealthy Saudi Arabian religious fanatic named Osama bin Laden to set up shop in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden used Afghanistan as a base to plan and carry out criminal terrorist attacks around the world. The Taliban refused to turn Osama bin Laden over to the United States. As a consequence, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

God only knows how many Afghans have died.

For eight long years, the United States has carried out a war in Afghanistan. God only knows how many Afghans have died. If a “just war” requires proportionality, I do not know how the random slaughter of vast numbers of Afghan civilians meets that standard. Even so-called smart bombs dropped from miles above the ground miss their targets or hit innocent people.

In the face of superior firepower, the Taliban has now regained control over a significant portion of Afghanistan. The very presence of occupation forces fuels the insurgency.

And, President Obama pledges to widen and deepen the war.

World Vision reports that in recent weeks U.S. nongovernmental aid agencies operating in Afghanistan have been asked by the U.S. Agency for International Development to support counterinsurgency objectives. Such a move is very dangerous. Aid and relief organizations strive to be independent of military purposes.

The president did also say, “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.” I hope this is the case, but fudging has already taken place on this drawdown date.

This past week I was among a group of religious leaders who met with officials of the Depts. of State and Defense and the National Security Council. I suggested at the meeting that while the Obama administration had inherited eight years of disaster in Afghanistan — and I acknowledged the need of our war machine to be fed — more war would solve nothing.

Let us stand against
war and violence.

I asked them to consider that our support of Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, both of whom have been accused of massive corruption, further calls into question the legitimacy of our efforts in the region. Zardari, for example, received the nickname “Mr. 10%” in reference to charges of corruption against him when he served as investment and environment minister in his wife Benazir Bhutto's government. And, Reuters reported this August that U.S. envoys and lawmakers have bluntly warned Karzai that U.S. patience is running out, citing concerns about allegations of fraud and corruption.

I, too, want to see the remnants of Al Qaeda dismantled. I, too, want to see other terrorist cells brought to justice. But these terrorist groups thrive under the current conditions.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us stand against war and violence.

Letter to the Editor