Monday, 12 March 2012

We Lost The War

We've lost the war in Afghanistan, because it always was unwinnable. You can't eke out a draw in war. You either win, or lose.

The grotesque news spectacle showing the aftermath in an Afghan village of a massacre perpetrated - apparently - by a solitary US special ops soldier is, without meaning to trivialise the horror of it, like a brutal sliding tackle right into an opponent's ankle when your 4-0 down, with 89 minutes gone on the clock.

This war has to end right now. How many more Afghan men, women, children and soldiers, how many British and American soldiers and personnel, have to kill or be killed before we do what we always should have done? That's simple: march back home, just like how we marched right in.

Sixteen Afghan villagers were wiped out, nine of them children. None of them Taliban. The US military insists the gunman was alone, and NATO are pleading ignorance. However, one survivor, Jan Agha, claims he:

"pretended to be dead when gunshots burst through his window, killing his father. His mother, brother and sister were also killed during the attack ... he believes more than one US soldier entered the house during the attack and "stayed in our house for a while.""

This is backed up by other accounts:

"Neighbors said they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk ... Their (the victims') bodies were riddled with bullets."

One neighbour, Agha Lala, said:

"They were all drunk and shooting all over the place."

Of course, the US Defence Department has labelled these multiple accounts "flatly wrong", adding: "We believe one U.S. service member acted alone."

They believe this because the US soldier in question "walked back to the base and turned himself into U.S. forces."

And yet, several accounts from Afghan eyewitnesses claim the attack to have been perpetrated by a "they", not a "he" - curious. Accounts pertain to having heard multiple American soldiers "drunk and laughing". Are they having collective hallucinations?

Does the US military have any evidence that it was one soldier and one soldier alone? Are they countenancing the idea that one man may be taking the flak for the actions of not just himself but several others, who remain among the ranks of the American deployed contingent in Afghanistan?

If the Defence Department's sole substantive reason for believing the accounts of several local Afghans to be wrong is that only one soldier turned himself in, then is it any wonder Barack Obama's statement rings so utterly hollow?

"This incident is tragic and shocking and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."

If the US and the rest of the NATO nations involved in the Afghan War really respected the people of Afghanistan, they would listen to them. Their very presence occupying Afghan land is a disrespect: to lay waste to her villages, whether it's a "rogue", "sole gunman", or a terrorist-targeting air raid, only deepens this sense of disrespect.

Because let's cut through the noise. We have given them no respect. We attacked them, invaded them, overthrew their government, occupied them, and continue to occupy them eleven years later, and the various atrocities on our side are building up into a quite ugly pile, ridiculing the Obama notion of "exceptional character" in our Armed Forces. Yes, the Taliban carry out their fair share too. But that's not the point. We are supposed to be "civilised." The relentless Justin Raimondo at dispels this notion incisively, laying out the consistent brutality engendered in American culture, military action and foreign policy, manifesting itself in the ever-rising mountain of wartime atrocities.

But even that's not the full point. The simple truth is: We are not Afghans. It is not our country. We should leave.

A wee while ago, I wrote in a now-defunct blog an article taking apart a piece in The Guardian by former Special Advisor to then Minister Liam Fox, a man called Luke Coffey, who had disingenuously suggested that "progress", and ergo, "success" in Afghanistan was just a little bit more hard work (blood, tears and treasure) away. "There is a lot to be optimistic about" is a quote I can remember particularly sticking in my craw. I laid out the only "progress" I could possibly envision if we carried on this reckless war:

"What can be guaranteed is that if we stay up until 2014, more British servicemen and women will die for no discernible reason, we will remain perceived throughout the Muslim world as an oppressor of Muslims, and the main reason the Taliban are still a force - our occupation - will remain so for another 3 years."

Last week, the bombs of Afghan insurgents took out six British soldiers in one fell swoop. Following the burning of Qu'rans by American troops last month, and now this massacre, I wonder if Afghans, the Taliban, and Muslims across the region have ever resented Western presence more?

What are we doing there? The mission has changed so many times it can truly be given that too-easily bandied about label: Orwellian. Luke Coffey claimed David Cameron had changed the debate in this country, transforming the Afghan War from one of "nation-building" - which was no longer winning in the polls, it seems - to one of "national security". As I wrote:

"The only Islamic terrorist attack ever on British soil occurred in 2005, four years after our campaign in Afghanistan had started and two after Iraq. Coincidental, you might try and argue - but perhaps you should look up why the 7/7 terrorists resolved to blow themselves up on the London Underground. In their justifications, they cited British involvement in Muslim nations: Iraq and Afghanistan ...

Whose national security? Ours? What threat to our national security does Afghanistan pose? A threat to trade, or interests, or the nation herself? I think not. Some cite terrorism. On that basis, why not also invade Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia? Further still, why not enact martial law in London and Leeds, seeing as we know the strongest threat comes from home-grown Islamic terrorism?"

The war is directionless, morally senseless, hopeless. It is even strategically senseless, geopolitically. Afghanistan bankrupted the Soviet empire. The British Empire right down to Alexander the Great could not conquer her harsh terrain and fierce people. The ignorant, disingenuous and wild optimism of Luke Coffey back at the end of last year is echoed today in the words of hawkish US Senator Lindsey Graham:

"These things happen in war ... you just have to push through these things ... we can win this thing."

Afghanistan is not a thing, Senator. The massacre of her children are not just "things" that "happen". If you try to push through these "things", all you will do is cause even greater bloodshed in the long run.

That "these things happen in war" is totally unacceptable. These things should never happen. That's why war should never happen, unless there is some utterly insurmountable, solely defensive reason for doing so.

What is the Senator striving for here, that makes all this worthwhile? A terrorist-free world? It isn't going to happen, especially while US foreign policy seems almost deliberately designed to incite it. A Taliban-free Afghanistan? Even that cannot be done. Every time innocent Afghans are massacred, that's another few hearts and minds pushed into the insurgent camp.

Ask yourself this. If you were an Afghan, just how angry would you be? What lengths would you go to to make this anger manifest?

There is nothing good that can come out of continuing this war. As I wrote of Coffey then, and could be equally said of Senator Graham now:

"Coffey ascribes to the Madeleine Albright view of military adventurism - the price is worth it. I say: tell that to the families of the dead. No ideal, however lofty, is worth the human suffering of those who never wanted to sacrifice for it."


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