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Ignoring the lessons of history

Post Independent Writer

The American philosopher George Santayana, warned, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It comes as no surprise that our president, who proudly proclaims that he doesn’t read the newspapers, has learned virtually nothing from history – and that is costing the United States dearly. The lesson he is missing is that all people will resent the presence of foreign occupiers, and will never abandon the fight to rid themselves of them.The American Revolution is a prime example. A ragtag army, under the leadership of George Washington, held off the world’s most powerful nation for seven long disheartening years, until the British finally tired of the fray and gave up.In Vietnam, the hollow rallying cry that we had to stop Communism over there so we wouldn’t have to fight it over here, got us embroiled in what was simply an internal conflict. For eight years, the North Vietnamese kept up the fight to expel the foreign occupiers until we finally gave up and left. Similarly, Russia gave up and pulled out of Afghanistan after nine years of unrelenting resistance against its invasion of that country.Not only is Bush ignoring the lessons of history, but he also appears to be oblivious to what is going on in the world around him. In response to the 9/11 terrorist attack, he has adopted the failed hard-line policies of Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. And what have those policies done for them? After decades of strife in Israel, Sharon’s steady increase in the level of retaliation against Palestinian suicide attacks has served only to generate even more violence in return. And Putin’s heavy-handed suppression of Chechnya has reaped a whirlwind of retaliation – suicide bombers aboard airplanes, and the hideous slaughter of hundreds of school children.These also are examples of the unyielding determination of people to rid themselves of those they consider to be foreign occupiers of their land. What makes us believe that our presence in Iraq will be seen in any other light by those who want us out?Our president tells us that we are in a “new kind of war.” Then why is he trying to fight it with old tactics? He has launched a massive invasion of and aerial destruction in Iraq, both of which have caused thousands of casualties among the innocent civilian population, generating hatred against us, steeling the resolve of militants, and swelling the ranks of the terrorists.Bush tries to convince us that all this is for the cause of bringing freedom to the Arab nations. Trying to spread freedom by aggression is very much like spreading Christianity by the sword, and is doomed to failure.The present course of our war on terrorism virtually guarantees that terrorism will continue indefinitely. The terrorists are fighting us with a religious ferocity that knows no end. If we value our future, we need to change our course and remove the underlying motivations which are driving terrorism: our one-sided support of Israel, and the perception in the Arab world that all we care about is their oil.I would like to close with a few prescient observations by the genius of the early years of our nation, Alexander Hamilton:• “Wars oftener proceed from anger and perverse passions than from cool calculations of interest.”• “Disappointment and opposition inflame the minds of men and attach them still more to their mistakes.”• “There is no road to despotism more sure or more to be dreaded than that which begins at anarchy.”• “He also rejected the notion that human nature could be purified by democracy.” Don’t all of these apply to George W. Bush? Hamilton must be rolling over in his grave.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.


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