I confess I have become anesthetized to the horror of all the atrocities which have occurred since September 11, 2001. There have been so many that it’s hard to keep track of them all, and after a while they all blend together. Every once in a while, however, a story pierces my desensitized sense of outrage to shock me again, and I realize, with mounting anger and sorrow, just how horribly we have failed in this “War on Terror” which seems to get more terrible every year. This is that story:

A suicide attack in northern Afghanistan earlier this week killed 59 schoolchildren and wounded 96 others, the education ministry said today.

The schoolchildren were lined up to greet a group of lawmakers visiting a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives.

In total, at least 75 people were killed, including several parliamentarians.

The 59 schoolchildren, aged eight to 18, and five teachers were among those killed in the attack, said Zahoor Afghan, a ministry spokesman.

I can’t help but wonder if these children would be alive today if we had focused our attention on eradicating the Taliban and Al Qaeda rather than racing off to invade Iraq based on lies and fear mongering. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who killed hundreds of thousands of people during his reign, but he was no threat to us or anyone else in the region. And were not the Taliban equally as repugnant, equally as evil? They executed people for violations of Sharia law in soccer stadiums. They gave sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the organization behind numerous terror attacks against our country, culminating in the events of 9/11. Surely, if only due to the danger posed to our security by these two groups, we should have focused all our attention on eliminating the Taliban forever, hunting down Osama and his minions, and building a stable and secure Afghanistan from the wreckage of war which the Afghan people had endured for decades.

But we did not do that. Our leaders short circuited any rational policy which would have employed not only our military, but the services of countries like Iran (who was more than willing to help us at the time) and our other allies to put an end forever to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. These were murderous thugs and murderous thugs they remain, as shown by their willingness to kill a large number of young, innocent children in order to get at a few members of Afghanistan’s Parliament. Willing to trade the lives of babies for the greater insanity of their jihad.

We knew they were evil. We knew we had it in our power to eliminate that evil. But we abandoned Afghanistan to chase after the ghosts and imperial dreams of Dick Cheney’s rancid imagination. We allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to reconstitute themselves in the safe haven of Northern Pakistan, and now they have once again become a grave threat to the both countries. Our war in Iraq provided the breeding ground for refining the techniques of terrorist action, the manual for which has now been given to the Taliban fighters who increasingly rely on roadside bombs and suicide attacks to kill civilians and soldiers alike.

The Taliban deserve all the outrage and condemnation that their vicious assault on innocent lives so well deserves. They should be hunted down, their fighters killed or captured and their movement forever eradicated. But we won’t do that. We can’t. With the vast majority of our resources sunk in the quagmire of our war in Iraq, we long ago abandoned all but a token effort to address the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who survived our onslaught back in the Fall of 2001. Now they are regaining their strength, and regaining control of territory they had once been forced to flee. They and their extremist followers in Waziristan also pose a threat to Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan, a nuclear armed power which could easily fall into the hands of Islamic extremists allied to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

We can build all the bases we wish in Afghanistan, and we can offer “support” for Karzai’s government in Kabul, but we have failed to eliminate the single greatest threat to that regime and its people. And all the money, arms and soldiers we are wasting in Iraq, and all the resources being provided for a possible strike against Iran, means that much less to combat the resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda killers, the true enemies of this country. The murderers of 3000 people on 9/11.

The murderers of 59 little children earlier this week.

And all the NSA spying on our internet usage, all the torturing of detainees at Gitmo and in secret locations around the world, all the hype and propaganda about how well things are going in Iraq, won’t change that fundamental calculus. President Bush had a chance to win his war at the outset by tracking down and eliminating the terrorist killers of Al Qaeda and their Taliban allies. If anyone deserved the made up label of “Islamofascists” it was those two groups. Instead, Bush and Cheney surrendered. They cut and ran from Afghanistan.

And because they did we are paying a terrible price today. Our economy is on the brink of catastrophe as the costs of the war, borrowed from foreign banks and investors who no longer feel so confident in the our nation’s future, denudes the value of our currency just as surely as that war has also defaced our international reputation and poisoned our relationships with our allies and friends.

But not nearly as great a price as the one paid by those 59 children. Not yet anyway.

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