Carriages without horses shall go,
And accidents fill the world with woe.
—Attributed to Mother Shipton
While Cowboy Dick is traveling around the Middle East telling the world of plans he has for blowing up some more bad people, others were figuring out how to deal with the consequences of some of the blowing up he and his sidekick, George the Awful, helped sponsor in Afghanistan.
The Cowboy had an especially good time making a surprise trip to Iraq. As exciting as it is being among generals and other sorts of people that as a draft dodger he never thought he’d get to meet, that thrill didn’t compare with the thrill of being on the deck of an aircraft carrier 150 miles off Iran’s coast. Having been told by his sidekick what a kick it was to make important speeches on the decks of warships, the Cowboy put on his best suit of Clothes-by-Bravura and, mimicking his side-kick’s appearance some four years earlier, announced his intentions to start another war if any country so much as looked sideways at him.
Representing the most powerful country in the world, he told the world that he and George were prepared to use force to keep Iran from, among other things, “dominating this region.”
Anyone paying much attention might notice that the power that seems to be dominating the region is the United States of America, a country several thousand miles away. Continuing in his best blustering Wyoming fashion, the Cowboy said as if it were fact: “This world can be messy and dangerous, but it’s a world made better by American power and American values.” The 40,000 orphans in Iraq would probably wonder how much better the world is as would the 4 million Iraqi refugees, to say nothing of the dead and wounded United States service personnel and Iraqi citizens. Commenting on the speech, one senior American diplomat quoted in the New York Times said: “He still kind of runs by his own rules.”
Another group that would question whether the world is a better place are the 19 Afghan civilians who were recently accidentally killed and the 50 Afghan civilians who were accidentally wounded near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, when a Marine Special Operations unit began firing on a crowded stretch of road after a suicide bomber rammed the convoy in which they were traveling. It was an accident. The Americans did not mean to kill civilians.
In a meeting with the families of the dead and wounded, Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in the area where the killing took place, said: “I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people”. He went on to say: “This is a terrible, terrible mistake, and my nation grieves with you for your loss and suffering. We humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness”. The colonel’s apology was beautifully expressed, heartfelt and sincere. The Cowboy’s battleship threat, although not beautifully expressed, was also sincere. The question is, how can the sincerity be demonstrated.
In the Cowboy’s case he can show his sincerity by blowing up something in Iran. It is harder to demonstrate sincerity with more than words when expressing sorrow for killing and wounding innocent civilians. Here are some of the things the Cowboy from Wyoming and his Texas sidekick might have done.
Instead of asking a colonel to apologize, one of them could have gone on television and expressed his sorrow over the incident and said that the lives that were lost are irretrievable but for those left behind the United States would do something that would make their lives better as a memorial to the victims of the accident. He could have said that in each of the villages where the dead and wounded lived, the United States was going to build a health clinic that the United States would staff. Medical treatment would be without cost to patients. He could have said the United States would build new schools in the towns where the dead and wounded lived and provide teachers for the school in order to help the people raise their standard of living through education. The Cowboy and the Rancher didn’t say any of those things. They left it up to Colonel Nicholson. He did what he could to make amends given the limited authority he has.
In a videoconference with Pentagon reporters, Colonel Nicholson said that in addition to the official heartfelt apology he made, the United States paid the families $2000 for each of the persons killed. That cost the United States $38,000. That, said the United States of America to the world, was the value it placed on the lives of 19 dead Afghan citizens whom it inadvertently killed. Shame on us.