I’ll have some things to say about Israel’s long overdue response to Hamas’s thousands of rockets, lobbed into civilian areas for many many months. But, as luck would have it, I happened to receive an email from an American soldier in Afghanistan, which goes right to the heart of the matter. Like so many of our men and women on the battlefield, he is a very thoughtful person, and so it came as no surprise when he started his email saying
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the last ten months, contemplating the necessity of my being here. Some days it feels as though nothing we do will make a difference. That this country is doomed to remain in poverty and violence and there is nothing anyone can do to change its irrevocable course. That no amount of American blood or treasure will ever deter or change the minds of those who have decided that America is a great evil, enforcing its will upon the world. That America is the cause of their hatred. That we Soldiers were sent to fight on ‘bad intelligence’ or for the wrong reasons. That we are in Afghanistan for vengeance and Iraq for oil. That if we just left, these countries would return to a blissful peace, free from American oppression. And through many nights, in a pitch black that is only possible hundreds of miles from electricity, I have questioned the mission. I have questioned if Afghanistan is worth it. I have questioned whether or not my being here has made a difference.
This is the hallmark of the civilized man, constantly questioning the reasons for his behavior, wondering if there is a better way, searching for that better way, putting himself in the position of “the other,” trying to understand it all. This man got his answer.
Today I received my answer. Today a suicide bomber drove his truck into a crowd of children at a checkpoint. At last count, over 20 children were killed instantly when his car detonated. As of 30 minutes ago frantic mothers and fathers were still calling the American base to see if their child was at our hospital. We could only say ‘no, no children were brought to the hospital. None of the children’s bodies were recovered, none survived the blast.’…In Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks reflects on the Soldiers he’s lost. Comparing each one lost under his command to a dozen saved by his command. Today dozens of young, innocent, unspoiled lives were lost. There is no other way to describe it other than a massacre.