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Why are we in Afghanistan?
By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator

FEB. 18, 2009 -- I keep asking the question: "Why are we in Afghanistan?" No one has a good answer. A few without television respond, "To get Osama." But everyone agrees that he is somewhere in Pakistan.


Then the answer is: "As President George W. Bush said, 'to spread democracy.'" The Brits tried to spread democracy for years. The Russians tried to spread communism for years. But democracy must come from within. I helped liberate Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, sixty-eight years ago and they have yet to opt for democracy. We liberated Kuwait eighteen years ago and they have yet to opt for democracy.

In the Muslim world more important than freedom and democracy is tribe and religion. We have made the good college try for over seven years and now should realize that we are not going to teach warlords to like democracy and grow cotton instead of poppies.

Now some answer to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for Al Qaida. I called the State Department after 9/11, and it reported Al Qaida in forty-five countries, including the United States, but not Iraq. Now we have spread Al Qaida to Iraq and determined to have Al Qaida grow in Afghanistan. What we can't understand is that we are creating terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban were our best friends in Charlie Wilson's War -- the only war we've won since World War II. I helped Charlie on the Senate side. I didn't know what was going on, but he was getting Israel to send Stinger missiles to Muslim Pakistan to shoot down the Russians. Now we are determined to turn our former friends into enemies and destroy Pakistan.

"We have made the good college try for over seven years and now should realize that we are not going to teach warlords to like democracy and grow cotton instead of poppies."

-- Ernest F. Hollings

Yesterday I read an article that it won't be long before charging President George W. Bush with war crimes for killing civilians in Pakistan with drones. Now the same charge could be made against President Obama. Five years ago, I was in Pakistan to learn that Osama bin Laden had a sixty percent approval rating and President Bush was at ten percent. I wouldn't advise an America to walk the streets of any city in Pakistan today.

We are ruining Pakistan. Finally, I'm given the answer, "to stabilize Afghanistan." The best way to stabilize is to get out. It became a matter of conscience for me years ago. I always remember the Wartime Prayer found in Eleanor Roosevelt's papers:

"Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember that somewhere, somehow out there, a man died for me today. As long as there be war, I then must ask and answer, Am I worth dying for?"

Why are we killing GIs to spread terrorism?

Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of the newly published book, Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2009, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives.

Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this Web site as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

NEWS: Hollings receives French honor

France honored retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings on in 2013 by awarding him the Legion of Honor for his World War II service. More.

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