I want to ask my readers to take some time to pray today if they're so inclined. Pray for peace, pray for successful conclusions to our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and pray for everyone who has lost a loved one due to this war. We've had lots of victories in both countries, and slowly but surely we are seeing that yes, nations can be governed by something other than violence and oppression in the Middle East. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are capable of joining the outside world without the constant threat of violence from their own government. Neither of the two new democracies are perfect by any means; there is a level of corruption in the governments that most people in the US don't recognize. I see Iraq as having a Chicago-style government at the moment. Instead of ward bosses and neighborhood associations we've got sheikhs and other tribal leaders each with their own ideas on how things are to be run. Replace "ward" with "tribe" and you'll see the similarities. If ward bosses dealt with food and power distribution, we'd probably see something similar to what is seen in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
I don't mind so much that these two nations haven't gotten past this stage just yet. It's going to take years for people to understand that they no longer have to fight for every scrap of basic necessities. Living under regimes like Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and the Taliban made people fearful, forced them to justify their existences on a daily basis to their rulers. You don't replace that kind of conditioning quickly or easily.
We found connections between Hussein's government and al-Qaeda, tenuous as they were. Members of a totalitarian state's secret police don't just take a few weeks' vacation on a whim in order to pursue their life's dream of being a driver/bodyguard for the head of an international terrorist group. Blind eyes were turned to training facilities being used for more than just government operations. We overestimated the WMD threat and caught the Baathists while they were still in the planning stages of rebuilding an arsenal, and found caches of chemical weapons that went unfound during the post-1991 inspections scheme. Thankfully they'd started to degrade. We were very lucky to catch them early and disorganized.
For anyone complaining that there's no separation of church and state here, try living under the Taliban. You have some serious perspective problems if you think that you live in a theocracy because most members of Congress are regular churchgoers. I'd love to say they've finally learned a few of the lessons being taught, but Congressmen are human, too. Too bad their slip-ups can cost taxpayers so much and damage the morale of our armed forces while they're serving. Regardless, the threat to people's very rights to speak freely is blown way out of proportion these days. If it was that bad we'd see all the websites whose authors are critical of the President being shut down by the government.
It's staggering to see the number of changes in life from six years ago today. I remember the lack of urgency regarding national defense, the carefree attitude from the day before. Some of that joy has returned, thankfully. There's less sense of complacency that we'll always be safe and secure without having to lift a finger. There are more people who will stand up to defend their neighbor, even when said neighbor is rude and insulting. There's a larger number of people who understand that the security of their nation starts with them, not with their government.
Until we all see the scourge of terrorism reduced and contained, the least we can do is pray.