The last American combat troops leave Iraq today. The legacy of the invasion, over and above a demoralised people and a broken society, is a newly but well-established Al Quaeda presence there.
It is ironic that this is the outcome of a botched act of aggression which George Bush justified at the time as being neccessary because of Saddam Hussein's links with Al Quaeda and the 9-11 attacks. It was not true, and we can see now that his questionable motivation has brought about exactly what was feared and intended to prevent. Shakespeare's phrase "hoist by his own petard" comes to mind, and we can see a wonderful example of karma at work here.
Meanwhile, probably for political reasons, the President of Afghanistan has ordered all foreign security firms to leave the country within four months. This will leave a gaping hole in the security of the country and the protection of allied and national troops and aid workers. My own sense always has been that it would have been better never to have interfered militarily in the country in the first place and that western action going back decades has created the fragility of the situation there. The situation is as it is, however, and I believe President Karzai's decision will not be helpful to the aim of establishing stability in the country.
So, both Iraq and Afghanistan face the prospect of further turbulence and bloodshed, and it will affect the whole region. The next few months could in human terms be difficult, and those who will suffer the most will be the people who live there, and who love their country and crave a peaceful life. Imagine if their situation was transposed into the country in which you live: for many it is a daily nightmare. We in the west have got used to the sights and sounds of bombings and attacks and loss of life that we see through our media and because it is happening all the time we tend to take it for granted. Each premature civilian death is a tragedy for a family and community, and we must not forget that.
One way or another we all have a responsibility for what has happened to these two countries as a result of foreign action. While my heart goes out to those who are homeless and sick in Pakistan now, it is my intent to focus my attention and send my love to the brave souls of those two neighbouring countries who give so much by being there and teaching through their suffering. I hope it may help a little in the weeks and months to come.