Last Words Worth Acting Upon
Last words say a lot about the people who speak them. Final utterances can range from regrets for a life not fully lived or satisfaction for a job well-done. Some shed light on the true nature of the individual. The consummate entrepreneur/entertainer P.T. Barnum’s last gasp asked, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” Comedian Lou Costello said, “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted”, before breathing his last.
Sometimes last words are worth acting upon. So are the last words of Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat, who died in December. Holbrooke was in the middle of a mission to pave the way for America’s military withdraw from Afghanistan when a torn aorta brought about his demise. According to his family, just before being wheeled into surgery to attempt a repair to his heart, Holbrooke told his doctors, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan”. Of course, within hours of his last words becoming public, official Washington rebutted Holbrooke’s deathbed request as mere “painful banter just before surgery. In other words, he didn’t mean it – it was simply the words of a man who was out of his mind in pain.
Now, I would not be so arrogant as to interpret for the rest of us the meaning of Holbrooke’s last words. I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls in our nation’s capital. What is important is that Holbrooke’s final plea should be acted upon. Clearly, nine years later fighting this protracted war in Afghanistan has apparently not made us any safer. If it did we wouldn’t be constantly reminded by Uncle Sam that the next Al Qaeda attack is just around the corner. We wouldn’t be told that full body scanners and sexual assaults by TSA agents at the airport are necessary to keep our airways safe. Look, on my way back to the United States from Qatar for Christmas, my family and I had to endure additional security searches at the airport in Doha all because we were traveling directly to the U.S.. Travelers flying between other countries don’t have to submit to longer lines and more intimate searches of bags and person. When we flew to Egypt and Jordan earlier in the year we were not subject to these added security measures. Let’s consider that the difference is that our government is not doing enough to keep us safe – and that includes ending wars that produce resentment and hatred of Americans.
But, our Military Industrial Complex”, “Security” agencies, and their accompanying apparatchik are not interested in ending the wars. They care nothing about getting at the root causes of terrorism. All they want to do is continue to take our liberties away, deploy more agents of death on the ground and launch more weapons of human destruction in an effort to eradicate terrorism. Take Homeland Security Advisory Board member Frances Townsend for instance. When asked by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, “Why do they (terrorists) want to come after us?” on CNN’s Situation Room, Townsend abruptly answered, “I don’t really care why, if I am flying on a plane, I want to be safe.” The problem is that folks like Townsend have it both ways. They fly on airplanes safely and make a living out of scaring the rest of us, violating our constitutional rights, and perpetrating wars and imprisonments indefinitely.
And according to retired Admiral Dennis Blair and more recently President Obama, our detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay is a “rallying cry for terrorist recruitment”. So, why don’t we expedite a solution to the problem of closing Guantanamo and take a bite out of terrorism?
The actions of the Homeland Security Industry are similar to those of the parent who repeatedly punishes their child for the same misbehavior without ever attempting to find out what is causing the misbehavior in the first place. A reasonable parent would try to get at the root causes of the problem to save themselves and their child a lot of agony.
The problem is that Homeland Security is like every other federal agency that mooches off the federal treasury. It receives ever larger budgets over its lifespan and never fulfills its mission. Why should it? Its gravy train would come to an end.
And that brings us back to the last words of Richard Holbrooke and the twisting of what he meant by official Washington. Knowing that he faced the grim reaper, Holbrooke was likely expressing his true feelings that ending the war in Afghanistan would make America safer. So the question is, who do we believe – an intelligent man with intimate knowledge of the issues who was on the brink of death or an industry that has a vested financial interest in the status quo? I believe the former and that is why his last words are worth acting upon.
Article first published as Last Words Worth Acting Upon on Blogcritics.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina