an honest question
Let's go back in time. Just a short trip, say June or July of 2001, before most people knew who bin Laden was, before there was a gaping hole in the ground in New York City.
Now suppose - and remember, this all hypothetical - but suppose President Bush suddenly announces he has come across reliable information that Afghanistan has become one big terrorist meeting place and that those terrorists are more than likely planning on using whatever weapons and intelligence they have acquired to attack the United States.
Suppose even further that stories of how the Taliban were oppressing the people of Afghanistan were made more public, that our president stood up on a podium and denounced all the atrocities that women and children are facing in Afghanistan.
And then suppose that on the basis of the intelligence the White House has gathered, the United States would be sending troops to Afghanistan where they would invade, conquer and take over the country in an effort to prevent future terrorist attacks on the U.S. and and other regions.
We would go to war. We would protect our freedoms, protect our safety and free the people of Afghanistan from a tyrannical regime.
Would you have opposed this war? Would you have stood in the streets of major cities, decrying the president's efforts to keep our country safe? Would you have yelled out slogans equating Bush to Hitler? Would you have questioned the truth of the reports of future attacks on U.S. soil?
Let's keep going with our imaginations here and say that this is what really happened. That the president outlined the intelligence reports that say forces are gathering in Afghanistan; dark forces that want to rid the world of American heathens and evil capitalism. Bush outlines the atrocities that are taking place upon the people of that country.
But still, you don't believe him. He is just trying to make another notch in his Empire belt, you say.
You march. You chant. You organize convoys of human shields to go to Afghanistan.
Finally, the president relents due to pressure from the anti-war front. He agrees to seek some kind of peaceful solution, to appease the crazed warriors that seek to do damage to us. He calls upon the U.N. to help him come to a decision. They decide to do a study, to send people over there and check it out. They'll get back to Bush in a few months with their answer.
You are thrilled. The anti-war front has been heard. Your voices have been raised as one and you have been listened to. Victory at last. Peace is always the answer, right?
And then on a beautiful fall morning, you are walking to your A.N.S.W.E.R. meeting in NYC when suddenly the sky seems to implode. You look up and see one of the towers of the World Trade Center burst into flames, an explosion causing a shower of glass and paper and smoke and body parts to rain down on you.
Later, after you have gone home and washed the pieces of charred skin from your body, you listen to the news. New York. D.C. Pennsylvania. Thousands dead.
And then you hear the words Afghanistan and terrorism and Taliban.
How would you feel knowing that you played a part in making the president back off these terrorists? How would you feel knowing that your marches and your signs were part of the overall picture that caused the U.S. to wait it out; that your voice drowned out all the other voices that were shouting to go to war, to take these bastards out before they kill us?
If you don't think that could happen, substituting Iraq for Afghanistan, then the only thing that will bring you out of your stupor is reality. Unfortunately, when reality hits you it is too late in a case like this.
You, like the hypothetical young man above, will be cowering in a corner somewhere while fire falls from the sky or sarin works its way through your body. You will wonder why appeasement didn't work, why peaceful dialogue and human shields didn't make our enemy back down.
Foresight is an interesting thing. We have no way of knowing what would have happened. We only know what didn't happen.
Which is much better than hindsight, when you are clutching your children and praying for a peaceful death and you know that you should have believed.
How would you feel if your anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-everything crusade actually worked and we backed down? How would you feel as you and your family lay there dying knowing that Saddam has on his face a wry little smile as we succumb to his terror?
photos via BBC