Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Obama & Afghanistan

Nov 02, 2009

Most Americans forget that there’s a war going on outside – or rather more than one. In the midst of chasing after celebrities and keeping up on the latest gadgets, we’re often pushed into some sort of forced seclusion that bars us from the ongoing reality of two active wars. And for the last 18 years, a ban on coverage of dead soldiers brought back home only further masked the harsh truth of conflict. Dating back to the 1991 Gulf war, the bodies of young men and women killed overseas were blocked from media coverage – that is, until now.

After lifting the media coverage ban earlier this year, President Obama himself made it a point to stand throughout the midnight hours last week as the newest casualties of the Afghan war were lifted off of a cargo plane one by one at Dover Air Force Base. Saluting each flag covered casket as it was carried out, the President witnessed first hand the human cost of war, something our previous President never did. And the American people were also able to observe this somber ceremony where 15 soldiers and three D.E.A. agents were brought home for their final resting.

Following the deadliest month of the inherited war in Afghanistan, where some 55 Americans were killed in October alone, President Obama faces an extremely complex and no doubt intense decision as to how we should proceed. Is it best to pull out our troops immediately? Should we send in more support for the ones that are already there? And what exactly does ‘victory’ in that region mean? Conducting routine war council meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and regularly listening to the advice of generals on the ground, the President is once again assessing an issue from all possible angles – including the human angle.

“It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” stated the President following the ceremony at Dover. Admitting that this very evident human sacrifice was going to way heavily on his decision in Afghanistan, Obama once again broke from the past. Refusing to dismiss the conflict as something in a distant land removed from American society, the President brought home the rough reality of this 8-year-long engagement and how any future action will directly impact people’s lives.

Breaking with his predecessor’s tradition, Obama has not only taken a hands on approach with honoring fallen soldiers, but he is proving yet again that constructive, well-thought out decision making yields the best results – and not arrogant, ego-driven rash behavior. When more and more of our dead children are being flown home, it’s amazing that some would criticize the President for not making a quicker decision. Instead of recognizing the complexities involved in such a matter, these critics want nothing more than to use any excuse to attack Obama and divide the country at a time when we need to be unified more than ever.

I support Obama, and whatever final decision he will arrive to because I know that it will not be done in haste. I know that he personally stood for hours and saluted fallen men and women, met with their families and did not return to the White House till 4:45 AM that day. And perhaps, most importantly, I know that he wants all of us to be aware of the daily sacrifices being made, and to be well informed of what we in turn have all inherited. It’s time to get out from our seclusion and start paying attention.