Iraq is not Afghanistan

I’m with Sandy on the issue of Ted Rall’s cartoon about Pat Tillman, the football player-turned-Ranger who died in Afghanistan last month (which may surprise some people, since I’m a Democrat and an opponent of the war in Iraq since the idea was first floated, but there you have it).

Rall’s comic is so muddled that one hardly knows where to begin. The most egregious logic flaw in it, though, is mixing together the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as if they were two fronts of the same operation. Our moral justification for going into Iraq was shaky from the beginning, but the argument for going into Afghanistan was much simpler and more solid — we went there because that’s where al Qaeda was! It’s hard to see how Rall can say that it is false to believe that the war in Afghanistan was connected to September 11. Iraq, not so hard — but Afghanistan?

Indeed, that was a big part of the reason why people like me were concerned about the invasion of Iraq from the beginning — because we worried that such a project would take critical resources away from the main objectives, those being running down the terrorist networks that were targeting us, and helping rebuild “failed states” like Afghanistan so that they stopped creating vacuums into which terrorist regimes like the Taliban could seize power. (And what do you know, it did end up distracting us. But that’s another story.)

Rall’s anger at the war in Iraq and hatred of Bush (both of which I’m sympathetic towards) have, I think, blinded him to the justifiable nature of the war in Afghanistan. To him, anything Bush touches is poisoned. And since Bush is, after all, the President of the United States, if Rall wants to throw bile at him in print, I’ve got no problem with that — getting some undeserved bile on you is part of the job description of being President. But Pat Tillman doesn’t deserve that treatment; he was a soldier who died in the line of duty, and even Rall points out that he turned down millions of dollars in football money to go serve (which Rall seems to think means he was some kind of idiot).

Rall’s cartoon scores a lot of points against the war in Iraq (“Museums? Let ’em burn! Get down to Basra and repair that pipeline!”), but Tillman wasn’t in Iraq, he was in Afghanistan. Maybe if the rest of the Army had been there, too (rather than bogged down in Iraq helping George Bush work out his Oedipal complex, or whatever his problem is), he could have come home alive. We’ll never know, of course. But for Rall to take out his anger at Bush on a dead soldier is a cheap shot. He should apologize.


joe dailey

May 5, 2004
2:15 pm

Rall has always thought the Afghanistan war was an evil Bush plot to build a pipeline accross the country so we could get natural gas shipped from the other ‘stans to Pakistan. He even wrote a book called “Gas War” a couple of years ago trying to argue that the whole war was planned before 9/11 after business negotiations with the Taliban broke down. You will always find extremists on both sides of any political debate that must believe the other side is evil, has a hidden agenda, and must be stopped at all costs (look at Ann Coulter, on the right, with her stupid “treason” and “slander” books). You can (and should) criticize this administration for muking up (perhaps permanently) the one chance this planet had of seeing a stable Arab democracy develop in our generation. But to constantly attack and vilify our soldiers, who have been breaking their backs In Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, Liberia, Haiti, Columbia, and god knows where else, is just unamerican. Rall’s been doing that for years; he actually wrote a column cheering on what he sees as “freedom fighters” in Iraq. It came out on Vetrans Day last year. Our people in uniform will continue to fight, for causes right or wrong, so he can continue to hate them. I guess that is both a burden and a glory we must accept as Americans.

Jason Lefkowitz

May 5, 2004
4:46 pm

Yeah, not to mention that Tillman was apparently a pretty enlightened guy:
“He was the same person who often talked late into the night with his linebackers coach at ASU, prying apart stereotypes about college football players and future soldiers.
“He talked about gays,” Lyle Setencich, the former ASU assistant said. “He asked me, ‘Could you coach gays?’ ” Setencich told Tillman yes. He could, and he had. He repeated that at the memorial service, televised on ESPN, in front of the sports world, showing another side of a coach, another side of an American hero.
Challenge yourself.
Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he’d mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: “Let’s discuss.” A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman’s readings, adorned the program.”
I’m sure that part of this stuff is hagiography (nobody is as amazing as their memorial services would make you think, taken in isolation), but even so he hardly sounds like a dumb reactionary lunkhead. Rall needs to find better people to work his anger out on.