Rationale, Rationalization, and Illogic


World Trade Center Collapse, September 11, 2001

Immediately after the atrocity at the World Trade Center on 9/11, we went into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, to root out Al Qaeda and  the Taliban which was protecting it, and to fight the “war on terror”.


Nine years later, we are not only still there, but by almost anyone’s calculation, we are losing.  The Taliban has been able to strike in the capital numerous times, the general in charge of the troops has been relieved of his duty for intemperate comments about his superiors and the situation in general, and the signs of improvement are few and far between.


The rationale for the mission has lurched from one rationale to another,  and officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society.  How does that square with the facts now?


According to the AP and ABC, CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Sunday there may be fewer than 50 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan. Panetta said, “I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity.”

President Barack Obama wants U.S. forces in Afghanistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.” About U.S. 98,000 troops will be in Afghanistan by fall.


“It’s a curious thing about Afghanistan: every time a politician makes the case for why we need to stay, he or she ends up making the case for why we should leave.  And he thinks he’s making a case for staying! It’s truly bizarre how many in Washington are describing the situation in Afghanistan accurately, but then fail to draw the most obvious conclusion based on what they’ve just said.” (Ariana Huffington)


Panetta said less than a week ago:Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that Al Qaeda never finds another safehaven from which to attack this country. That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there.”


If there are fewer than one hundred members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and if eliminating Al Qaeda is truly the main objective, the costs are staggering in human lives and in scarce dollars that we can not afford.  The U.S. has paid more than 300 billion dollars and the costs keep skyrocketing.


General Petreus says that we will win this war, but what does winning mean?  Kandahar is still a Taliban stronghold nine years after the start of the war.  Unfortunately, there are too many questions and too few answers.


The “Q” word – quagmire – has been mentioned a lot recently.  How much time has to elapse before we know if we are in a quagmire?  If the definition is “a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position, a predicament”  we are already in one.


We all want Afghans to live in a peaceful society, and to be able to raise their families in security and safety.  We want Afghan children to get a proper education which will give them a future.  We want women to live without the fear which they suffered under during the Taliban years.


The problem is, that it is difficult to see how adding more troops will achieve that goal.  It seems to be doing the opposite since in the last nine years more boots on the ground have not produced security for Afghans.


34 Responses to “Rationale, Rationalization, and Illogic”

  1. inspira

  2. Interesting post Steve

  3. I like the portrait of the boy very much !

  4. Hi Steve,
    I am so impressed how you can tell an entire story by just 1-2 pictures. As photographer amateur, I have to work still a lot before I can achieve this level ! Thanks for sharing your art.
    Didier Petre

  5. Photos and words are so strong…
    I admire your work…

  6. I admire your photographs tremendously and I believe photographers offer a unique perspective of the world but, as I read your Blog on Afghanistan, I couldn’t help wondering what your solution to all this is. Its easy to be critical and we all tend to select informaton that suits our argument but I’d be interested to read what you think the better option is and – more importantly – the likely consequence. In the meantime, love your photos and intrigued by your comments. Keep up the good work.

  7. great photograph…
    expert photographer!!!
    – dFlix –

  8. Its my first time looking at your blog and I am completely mesmerised by your images. Your photos let the oppressed and downtrodden speak for themselves and this is a gift!

    The USA no longer have valid reasons to be in Afghanistan. Words like democracy, human rights and fighting terrorism should no longer be thrown around so liberally. We understood why the USA felt the need to go to Afghanistan in the first place but we can no longer understand their stay!

  9. ..Trying to eradicate a terrorist group in an alien land, that too where people of the country where you go ,seem to be supporting the group( THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT WE MAY NEVER KNOW),is like shooting in the dark with your eyes blind folded.
    None can be responsible what has visited the country on its own volition.
    So, others can not be held accountable or responsible.
    In this case, Pakistan seems to behind,in which case,Afghanistan should fight it out the old fashioned way.No diplomacy
    As far as the countries in the terrorists’ target list,shore up deferences and tighten internal security.No holds barred -do not try to molly coddle the issue talking about Religion.If a particular religion hurts you, and despite your pleadings continues to hurt you,root it out,come what may.
    vacillation between tough measures and soft pedaling issues shall lead us nowhere.
    Learn from SriLanka.

  10. scott Says:

    Very moving pictures and accompanying text.

  11. Moshe Says:

    Thanks for the photos and the lines.
    I am asking my self what could be done?

    It is clear that once US is out, people’s lives won’t be better, probably worse.
    Can you please share your thinking on a possible solution?

  12. Images do convey that war is for fools.How long are going to remain fools?
    Great commitment.Please keep it up.

  13. Steve, thanks for publish and disseminate their work … when I see your photos can understand a little story that is occurring around the world … I feel that the information content expressed in images that records help in spreading the message of everyday people he photographs, depicting their aspirations, feelings, sorrows, beliefs and virtues. Thanks for sharing a little history of these people from different backgrounds, but united by the vision of an artist who knows how to tell us what actually happens in their lives.

  14. Amazing report. Amazing photos.

  15. Steve, I’ve looked at your blog since you began this over a year ago (and looked at your images far longer) but this was the first post that compelled me to dive in. Bravo. You have power in your in your hands that needs to be wielded.

  16. So sad. Everything.

  17. Why publish this here? Don’t the large publishers dare to show this? It is an extremely importan story you’re telling.

  18. Beyond words…beyond incredible. Thank you.

  19. Great post! Wise words and impressie photos!

  20. Robert Says:

    Amazing photos, the eyes do tell a story.

    Thank you for your thoughts on the war, time for me to do some more research.

  21. Hello Steve,

    I’m glad I had the honor to meet you in Dubai during your workshop in May 2010. You’re work has been an inspiration for me and had great effect on my life.

    Thank you and looking forward to meeting you again.


  22. Samar Jodha Says:

    Thanks Steve for sharing your thought beyond all the amazing work done.Not sure when you back in the city.Would be great to catch up for a drink.

  23. Leire Says:

    Powerful photographs. I feel so inspired!

  24. […] za pomocą Rationale, Rationalization, and Illogic. […]

  25. very very useful information and pictures. u re very good at this job.

  26. Thank you for sharing these, Steve. Your photographs have the power to affect change, if only in people’s minds — after all, that is where everything begins.

  27. Hey ‘AWOL’ Steve, welcome back! Where have you been?

    Image 3, 4, 5, 6 does it for me.:)

    As of the war, we all know why we are there! And we all know how savage war can be!
    As you know the Afghan have a unique sense of faith in thier lord and thier desire to overcome such savagery is quite unique.

    Time will answers unanswered questions.


  28. Stunning and powerful pictures here… I lost my breath

  29. Susana Says:

    More people want peace than war, let’s spread peace then.

  30. Steve, you continue to post some of the most rational impressions of the quagmire in Afghanistan. Thanks.

  31. MinusTheLinus Says:

    How much are we comparing what we envision the future of Afghanistan to be to that of our Western American society? Their culture is entirely different; governments won’t work quite the same way, education is valued for different reasons, agriculture, food, cloth, construction… all these are different, they affect their society, and require our minds to be open to altering our methods.

  32. Pepito Grillo Says:

    Is Al-Qaeda really just 50 guys? Those generals must be really stupid trying to fight them with this means. I suspect the war is only an excuse to control the country and its overwelming mining resources (known since decades ago).

    • Pepito – That is the only obvious explanation I’ve seen so far.
      Steve – you should go on Late Night TV with your pictures and your stories.

  33. I originally sought McCrurry photographs as an inspiration for my art. As a fan, I’ve collected all the books and cards and now this blog.

    What’s happened however is while capturing stunning images, your focus has had a dramatic impact on me and the world, showing rather than telling, what’s really going on from the courageous perspective of your on the ground work. I want to add this to my new website which will go live and also my FB. I’m deeply moved to take action.
    Becky Robbins

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