Ending war takes more than just carrying a sign
FOR the past several days, I have been reading news articles and watching video clips online. The vast majority are about those protesting or supporting the war in Iraq. A few mention Afghanistan. I find myself dumbfounded by these protests.
The articles' authors and those people pounding the streets with their little signs all say the same thing: that this is similar to the Vietnam War. The protesters claim they are trying to end the war, "like we did with the Vietnam War." All I can think about is how misguided they are. This is nothing like the Vietnam War.
Carrying a sign written in marker and made from the cardboard in which your big-screen TV came does nothing but make you look like uninformed puppets of both sides of the battle between Democrats and Republicans. Most of the signs are unoriginal, just reflecting a silly slogan they saw on another sign. The few that try to be different are usually misspelled or simply too far off topic to make any sense.
One woman in an Associated Press video clip, holding a sign that read, "Impeach Bush," stated, "I don't want my kids, if I ever have any, to hear what this war is about and to think that I did nothing to stop it." This implies she thinks she is doing something to stop this war by carrying a sign that states, "Impeach Bush." That has nothing to do with ending any wars.
I know a little about what is going on in Iraq based on what my coworkers there are telling me. However, I will focus on Afghanistan, since that is where I am. You might use it as an example related to Iraq. Let me first ask, who you think is doing something to end the war in Afghanistan?
Is it a protester in Washington, D.C., with a sign? Is it the Taliban who continue to roadside bomb the International Security Assistance Forces? Is it the politicians in Washington or the leaders of other nations involved in ISAF? Is it the bloggers ranting about how much they hate President Bush?
No. Read that last word again, two letters: N and O.
Afghanistan has only a few natural resources. Its agricultural products consist of opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins and lambskins. Its industries are small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement, hand-woven carpets, natural gas, coal and copper. Afghanistan's production is not nearly enough to support the government or population. Their quality of life and 40 percent unemployment rate reflect this. The biggest promise the government has for income is in the form of tariffs, which will come from neighboring countries shipping through Afghanistan to nearby seaports. However, Afghanistan does not have a road structure. The dirt roads here are not much better than paths.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been managing design and construction projects for a ring road around the country and roads interconnecting the towns and villages. Most of the funding is coming from USAID and other international contributions.
Do you remember my question? Who is ending this war? The Afghans are. They are the ones working on construction projects -- roads, schools, police facilities, power generators and so on. To come to work, they must daily defy the threat of murder and execution by the Taliban. They work to make money to support their families and to give hope to their country. With help, Afghanistan will support itself soon. In the end, the Afghans will end the war in their own country with a little monetary and manpower help from other countries.
These good, hardworking people only want a better life. They can do the work. They just need a little help. Put down your signs, stop writing blogs, end the bickering between party lines and help the Afghan people. This is how war in Afghanistan will end.
Matthew T. Rowe is from Waikele. He currently is a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.