Monday, October 08, 2007

Six Years Later: Moti's Thoughts

Mordechai Sorkin is a U.S. Army Ranger and platoon leader in Afghanistan. He explained "why I fight" on the anniversary of September 11th:
In any event, at one point during the day I was sitting about 15 meters away from a detainee, watching our Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) talk to him. Now I’m not completely cold-hearted, but I’m definitely not buddy-buddy when it comes to handling enemy suspects. As long as they’ve got food, water, and clothes, and haven’t soiled themselves, my interaction with them might involve an occasional glance. Maybe. Yet my ANSF counterparts sat close by, talking, smiling, and laughing. They held hands for a period, and if it wasn’t for the flex cuffs on the guy, you’d have thought they had been friends for years...

I’ll be honest: I didn’t joint the Army to make Afghanistan or Iraq into better places. I would like to help these countries, but that’s not why I’m here. I find some things about Afghans endearing, and there are parts of their culture that humble me. But I’m not an Afghan patriot. I am an American. I’m here to fight for the United States...

...ultimately, protecting America involves more than just killing bad guys. That means I’ve often got different missions than the ones I envisioned in my sleep-deprived days of Ranger school, where I dreamed of mowing down the Islamist horde with an endless belt of 7.62. Despite what Brian DePalma and his ilk might think, I don’t go around dictating law with the muzzle of my rifle, and neither do my men...Every mission we have is dedicated to helping Afghanistan, and to making this country a better place. For the only way Afghanistan will no longer be a threat to America is if it gets better...

As angry as our enemies make me, I did not join the Army to achieve retribution. I joined so that others would not have to face this threat in the future. I joined so that my friend’s daughters can grow up in an even better world than the one that I enjoy. It is for children like them that I fight; and it is for their future that we must remember the past.

Read it all
. Then read the rest of his blog, starting at his very first post, The Forgotten War.

Update, 10/10/07:

I contributed the following comment on Moti's latest post, which recounted this incident:
A few days ago we went to a village to investigate reports of heavy enemy traffic. I ended up with a big crowd of kids, who tend to be the best sources of information in this country: They're honest and they're curious. One child told me he wanted to grow up to be a Talib. When I asked my terp to clarify if he meant 'student' or 'crazy murderous fanatic', the child responded for me. The kid said that he liked ANP and ANA, and he liked the Taliban. He liked all of them compared to us, the non-Muslim American Army, who all just ought to be killed. Enemy fighters with body armor and chest racks [provided by the U.S. to Afghan forces] make me angry—children like this just take the wind out of my lungs.

This is the kind of victory you are winning, Moti:
As a child, Maseullah’s parents sent him to live and study at a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan. Maseullah returned home as a hafiz—one who can recite the whole Koran from memory. His instructor’s charge still rang in his ears, “America is the great Satan. Go forth from here and drive out the infidel occupiers, and God will sanctify you.”..

Under Commander Ron’s proactive implementation of the military’s policy of respect for local religious practices, Maseullah had begun to question aspects of his religious training and joined the Afghan Security Forces. When my assistant and I arrived in the Pesch Valley with a plan to employ local craftsmen to restore damaged and rundown mosques in villages that supported coalition efforts and invited Maseullah to be our special advisor, the idea of Americans as crusaders come to destroy Islam began to make even less sense to him...

One day, as I returned to Camp Blessing from a meeting with village elders about mosque reconstruction work, Maseullah jumped up to greet me from where he had been waiting at our dusty outdoor mess table next to the motor-pool yard. I had not seen him for some time.

He told me he had just returned from a trip to Pakistan to visit his old madrassa. He had hiked 40 miles through some of the most dangerous territory in the world to see his former teachers. Much of the ideological fuel sustaining the terrorists continued to pump out of the same sort of place Maseullah had gone back to.

He told me that in Pakistan he had sat down with his teachers. “I am working with the Americans,” he confided. “They have supported me as chaplain over the Afghan Security Forces in my valley, and we are doing great things together. They are not the crusaders you said they were.”

His astonished teachers replied to his tale, “We don’t believe you, Maseullah. Surely you have been duped by their crafty deceptions. All Americans do is try to destroy Islam.”

“Then why are they restoring mosques all over my valley, and why are they allowing me to make sure my soldiers pray five times a day?”

“Surely none of this is true, Maseullah,” they insisted. “You must be joking with us.”

“No, I am not joking. Come see with your own eyes. Come to my valley and see it dotted with the newly painted minarets the Americans have helped us restore. With respect, you were wrong about them.”...

“You see, Chaplain, whether I live or die is no matter. I will die when I die, and I hope to die while doing what is right—regardless of the dangers. It is all in God’s hands. We are working together, you and I—a Muslim and a Christian working together to conquer those who don’t like the idea of a Muslim and a Christian as friends here in Afghanistan or anywhere in the world. If God wills, we will prevail, so we need not fear.”

I want to add this thought: it was easy for the "greatest generation" of WWII soldiers to be hailed as heroes when the entire country was behind them. It is far more challenging for the soldiers of today to do so when the U.S. is split at home, and some Americans profess to despise your actions because they despise the very idea of America fighting a noble war.

Truly, men like yourself are the "greatest generation" of soldiers we have yet seen in the United States. The third stanza of America the Beautiful is floating through my mind; did the author forsee today's conflict?

Oh beautiful for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self the country loved,
And mercy more than life!

America, America,
May God thy gold refine,
‘Til all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

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