SEATTLE – The Afghans are a proud people with a long and formidable history of resistance to foreign occupation. The fact that they have always prevailed should not distract from the horror they still routinely experience.
The latest atrocious episode against Afghans took place on March 11 in the village of Balandi, when accused U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales killed 16 innocent people while they were sleeping peacefully.
Balandi is located in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, which has seen some of the toughest resistance to the U.S.-NATO occupation of the country. Kandaharis have received a bad reputation for spoiling the war party devised by the United States, NATO, and their corrupt local allies.
In a way, Balandi is a microcosm of Afghanistan. When the U.S.-led bombing campaign of Afghanistan commenced in October 2001, many commentators cheered. In a strikingly unequal war — with the world’s most advanced nations attacking the world’s poorest — the U.S. wanted to teach al-Qaida terrorists a lesson.
The latter quickly disbanded and poured through neighboring borders across the region, while the Afghani people shouldered the brunt of the war. Tens of thousands have since perished in a vengeful war they had no part in creating.
Many commentators have supported the war, rationalized it, or simply pretended it was not happening. The Afghans seemed to be dispensable on account of their being less “civilized” somehow. The war was presented as a “good war,” with a rationale that swayed the likes of Christopher Hitchens. Even those who were actually committed to human rights and international law found some sort of logic in the war in Afghanistan.
“To my lasting regret I supported the war initially as an instance of self-defense validated by the credible fear of future attacks emanating from Afghanistan,” wrote Richard Falk, a human rights scholar and U.N. envoy. However, he came to realize that “senseless and morbid wars produce senseless and morbid behavior” (Foreign Policy Journal, March 15).
The words “senseless” and “morbid” don’t begin to describe the dirty war in Afghanistan. A recent indication of callousness was on display in Washington, as President Barack Obama welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House.
“Our world has been transformed over and over, and it will be again. Yet, through the grand sweep of history, all its twists and turns, there is one constant: the rock-solid alliance between the U.S. and the U.K.”
The intended reference was mostly about Afghanistan, as the latest massacre of Afghan civilians prompted a call by the country’s president, Hamid Karazi, to ask the U.S. to redeploy its troops out of villages throughout the country.
“Rock-solid” means the U.S. and its allies will stick to their plan of not ending their combat operations until 2014, and then, through a U.S.-Afghan memorandum, maintaining a permanent military presence.
Considering the alarming rates at which Afghans are being killed, the term “rock-solid” could also indicate numerous more deaths of innocent people simply because Obama doesn’t want to be seen as “soft” and inconsistent during an election year.
Afghans cannot maintain this charade for long. Expectedly, the Taliban will no longer engage the U.S. in direct or indirect talks. As for the country’s weak president, he cannot find the right balance of accommodating the U.S. plans and managing the active anger brewing among his countrymen.
The original orchestrators of the Afghanistan war are waking up to the new reality: The Afghans will accept no less than a full U.S.-NATO withdrawal from their country, no matter what the cost.
Empowered by an inflated sense of military superiority, the Bush and Obama administrations failed to grasp what has become a historical imperative: Afghanistan belongs to its people, who will fight to reinstate that fact over and over again.
Freedom is an absolute value. Its meaning is not diminished by war or military occupation. The moral clarity of the Afghan struggle for freedom in 2012 remains as strong as it was in 2001.
Even the feeble excuse for war — that it was actually a “war on terror” — is hardly as ubiquitous as it once was. The war now merely exists to save face, to assert a degree of American dominance, and to arrange for some beneficial future that allows the U.S. to reap unclear gains. This lack of moral and strategic centrality is turning the war into something sadistic, strange and racist.
The U.S. is turning its citizens into “pathological killers,” wrote Falk. “American soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters, Quran burning, and countryside patrols whose members were convicted by a U.S. military tribunal of killing Afghan civilians for sport. … [Official U.S. explanations have] become essentially irrelevant.”
In a meeting with Karazi, an elder from Balandi asked the president: “They killed so many of our loved ones, and do you have an answer why?”
No one is likely to offer an answer, for pathology cannot always be explained by careful diplomatic language. What is clear is that the recent spree of violence and humiliation will fuel the determination of Afghans to end another bloody episode of their history on their own terms.
“I don’t want any compensation. I don’t want money, I don’t want a trip to Hajj (pilgrimage), I don’t want a house. I want nothing but the punishment of the Americans. This is my demand, my demand, my demand and my demand,” said another elder (Al Jazeera, March 17).
Speaking of demands, what are the U.S. demands and objectives?
Do American soldiers even know what they are fighting for, or whom they are fighting against? (Bales’ victims were mostly women and children.)
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in March 2003: “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.” Richard Falk is right; senseless and morbid wars do produce senseless, morbid behavior. — and bizarre logic as well.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).