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News from Afghanistan is impossible to reconcile with hope of success.
The desecration of corpses by four Marines who were filmed last year urinating on what appear to be the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters, has justly caused rage and revulsion around the world. One Marine can be heard saying on the tape, “Have a nice day.” Afghanis could fairly conclude that the United States or at least its military is criminally deranged in war.
The specter of another U.S. dirty war pervades every square inch of occupied Afghanistan where crimes committed by our soldiers are repaid with bloody attacks, many by U.S.-trained Afghans themselves using their American-made M-16s. This is the self-defeating nightmare of all wars of occupation: the invasion forces prop up and train a puppet government whose soldiers turn their guns on the invaders.
On Jan. 8, an Afghan soldier killed one U.S. service member and wounded three others, a week before the Marines’ urination desecration film went viral. Last December, another U.S.-trained Afghan opened fire on U.S. soldiers following an argument, and the Afghan soldier was shot dead. Several days later a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform gunned down two members of the French Foreign Legion, prompting France to move up the end of its part in the quagmire.
The seemingly endless killing of civilians by NATO (don’t call them U.S.) airstrikes that are intended to hit anti-occupation forces rose last year to 187, according to the United Nations. An airstrike that killed seven children and a young adult Feb. 8 as they herded sheep a mile from their homes was, according to a joint Afghan-NATO investigation, based on bad information from an informant.
In mass protests of such atrocities, protesters scream “Death to America,” and the 11-year-long counter-insurgency has become a long sordid crime spree.
Some 14 civilian road builders were killed Nov. 26 while they slept in their tents in eastern Afghanistan. Another 14 civilians, all women and children, were killed in southern Afghanistan last May 28 by an airstrike that missed Taliban fighters and hit two homes. Six children, including two boys and two girls from the same family, were killed last Nov. 23 by a U.S. airstrike. On Nov. 11 Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs was convicted of killing Afghan civilians “for sport.”
So much madness and terror infuses the combat, the taking of prisoners, and the grinding spiral of bombings, reprisals and revenge that – like in any military police state – the invading armies can’t know how or whom to fight. Last July a U.S. soldier shot to death a BBC journalist who spoke English and showed his press pass. NATO apologized to the reporter’s family but claimed the soldier mistook him for a suicide bomber.
Of course, chest pounding generals take arrogant credit when announcing their successful version of events, even if the conduct was an illegal act of reprisal. Last August Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander, told reporters that a U.S. airstrike (he didn’t say “NATO” that time) killed the very Taliban fighters who had shot down a Chinook helicopter killing 30 U.S. troops the week before. Gen. Allen claimed that U.S. commandos had tracked down the Taliban suspects and called in the airstrike.
This week furious protests erupted across Afghanistan over the trash burning by U.S. personnel of multiple copies of the Holy Qur’an. Everyone in the War Party from President Oh-bomb-ahh on down has called the burning an accident. But who you gonna believe?
This month Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a decorated veteran of four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, went to the press calling the top brass liars. Col. Davis says his troops spouted contempt for the cowardice and double-dealing of their Afghan counterparts, while the Afghans told him of unofficial nonaggression pacts between themselves and Taliban fighters.
It’s no wonder that our soldiers, abused on the ground by the General Staff, come home with tortured minds. Counter insurgency is self-destructive.
— John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch a peace and nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin.