Sunday, August 8, 2010

A reminder of who we are fighting

Jonah Lehrer, in his excellent book "How We Decide" said that "A surplus of information creates a deficit of attention". One possible reason that we have an attention deficit regarding the reasons why we are fighting for a free Iraq and Afghanistan is our round-the-clock news coverage of everything political and economic. Today's news prompted me to re-iterate who we are fighting in the Middle East, which should make the reason why we are fighting obvious.

Today, members of the medical team that brought the first toothbrushes and eyeglasses that their rural Afghan patients had ever seen were murdered by gunfire by the Taliban. I wish I could stop there. I wish that the power of that short description of what happened would be enough for you to re-kindle that "Quiet, un-yielding anger" that President Bush mentioned in his address to the nation on September 11th, 2001. However, I know that you may still be convinced that America's intentions in the Middle East are to acquire oil, rather than protect our country and help Afghanis and Iraqis in the process.

Here is a brief description of five of the ten people who have been identified at this early stage that were murdered in the shooting:
(Excerpts from the Associated Press)

"Dr. Thomas Grams, 51, quit his dental practice in Durango, Colo., four years ago to work full-time giving impoverished children free dental care in Nepal and Afghanistan". says Katy Shaw of Global Dental Relief. Khris Nedam, head of the Kids 4 Afghan Kids in Livonia, Mich., which builds schools and wells in Afghanistan says
"He trained them how to brush their teeth, and you should've seen the way they smiled after they learned to brush their teeth."

Cheryl Beckett spent six years in Afghanistan and specialized in nutritional gardening and mother-child health. "Cheryl loved and respected the Afghan people. She denied herself many freedoms in order to abide by Afghan law and custom," her family said in a statement.

The family of Glen Lapp, 40, of Lancaster, Pa., learned of his death Sunday. "Where I was, the main thing that ex-pats can do is to be a presence in the country," Lapp wrote in a recent report to the Mennonite group. "Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world."

Officials have said the victims also included team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who had lived in Afghanistan for about 30 years. Little had been making such trips to Afghan villages for decades, offering vision care and surgical services in regions where medical services of any type are scarce.
"They raised their three girls there. He was part and parcel of that culture," said David Evans of the Loudonville Community Church, New York

According the AP report, also among the murdered was "Dr. Karen Woo, who gave up a job in a private clinic in London to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan."

The complete list of the murdered has not been released, pending formal identification of the bullet-riddled bodies. U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, whom I disagree with on just about everything, should be commended on her accurate portrayal of who we are fighting:

"Its [The Taliban] members have assassinated tribal elders and thrown acid in the face of young girls. Earlier this summer, they accused a 7-year-old boy of spying and hung him," Clinton said in her statement today. "With these killings, they have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology."

When President Obama urges us to use restraint in our responses to such attacks, I can't help but feel restrained. It is actually a good thing to be angry at these attacks, and to want to destroy the perpetrators of these evil acts and the death-loving ideology that bred them. If you think I am being a knuckle-dragger by allowing my emotions to overwhelm my ability to reason and use nuance then consider for a moment the number of times that President Obama has been "outraged" at the obsesses of Wall Street for creating the economic crisis of recent years. Why is it intellectually insightful for him to be angry at those involved in credit default swaps, yet regressive and primitive for me to be angry at murderers?

It is my opinion that the families of those murdered should be angry, for every breath that the murderers take is an injustice of catastrophic proportions to those who sacrificed so much for Afghans to be left to struggle for a final breath. A quiet, un-yielding anger is exactly what we ought to feel.