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BENNIE GASKINS: Recent U.S. foreign policy fails in Middle East

GUEST COMMENTARY: Two overseas wars have done nothing to quash the threat from al-Qaeda

Bennie Gaskins

Bennie Gaskins

The administration admitted on Jan. 29 that the threat from al-Qaeda is as great as ever. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost almost $2 trillion over the past 12 years. But more than the cost in dollars and cents, we must also consider the thousands of brave young service personnel we have lost, as well as the number of men and women who were severely injured and can no longer lead a normal life. Additionally, we must remember the innocent civilians who have been killed or injured … all for naught.

I’m tired of seeing our money and resources wasted in places that won’t make a difference, or could even make the situation worse. And in my opinion, we have not helped by meddling in the Middle East. We have, in fact, made things worse.

Just consider our situation in Iraq. As evil as Saddam Hussein was, he posed less of a threat to us than the Iran aligned regime we put in power. There is more violence in Iraq than ever before, and the Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for centuries. The infrastructure is not as good now as it was under Saddam, and Saddam protected the Christians. After removing Hussein from power, we allowed the country to be looted, churches burned and Christians exiled.

Then, look at Afghanistan. We went there to punish and eliminate the Taliban for the attacks on Sept. 11. But most of the perpetrators, including Osama bin Laden, were from Saudi Arabia. After 12 years of conflict, there are more Taliban militants than ever before. Why would we consider leaving our troops there for years to come? If more than 100,000 could not make a difference, what good will 10,000 of our soldiers do?

Still, the saddest part of this war in Afghanistan is the number of our brave soldiers who have been killed by the Afghani soldiers they were training. And, they were killed with guns and ammunition that we supplied. I would not want to be the one having to tell these families that their son or daughter was killed by someone they were there to protect.

We’re spending over $1 billion every five days, and not even half of that goes to the military. Instead, we are paying for contractors, bribes, corruption, and some of the money even goes to the Taliban. I believe the war-connected bureaucrats are so powerful that they will not let the war end. Tens of billions have been gained by contractors, bribes and corruption. Something is wrong when Congress approves billions on equipment that the Pentagon does not need or want. I did not vote for Obama, but I thought that if he was elected, at least he would get our troops home. But, even Obama is not powerful enough to override this bureaucracy that keeps the war going.

With all of these problems occurring, Obama has pledged our help, but our help is what caused all of the problems in the first place. Furthermore, almost every operation we have supported, including Egypt, Libya, and Syria, is worse than before. Christians have been killed and persecuted, and churches have been burned in all three of these countries.

Our intention is to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, but democracy in these nations may not serve our best interests when the majority of the population hates you. We could be in big trouble if countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia adopt democracy. Just think about Kuwait. We saved their country and their oil wells. Yet, they charged us hundreds of millions of dollars for the use of their ports and facilities, and they grossly overcharged us for fuel and supplies for our troops.

Here is what I have learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; we should never try to occupy another country. If we must invade, we need to get in and get out. And, don’t reward them in any way, including rebuilding their infrastructure. Follow Israel’s example: bomb and punish them. Our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has caused much more animosity towards the U.S. all over the Middle East. Even most of our homegrown or would-be terrorists have cited our war against Muslims as their motive. I am not an isolationist, but we cannot make a difference in these Muslim countries.

I believe all this to be true. Why can’t our officials see the same thing?

Bennie Gaskins, a native of Nashville, Ga., moved to Albany in 1980, where he owned and operated the Albany Area Advertiser and the Calhoun County newspaper until he retired and the businesses were sold in November 1994. Since his retirement, Gaskins has involved himself in mission work with an emphasis on helping the people in Haiti.