Licensed to kill civilians, repeatedly

I’ve noted several times in this space that they don’t hate us for our freedom.  I said it here, just the other day, and in this piece, I put it this way:

“They don’t hate us for our freedom.  In fact, they hate us because we are constantly fucking with them, and by “fucking with them,” I mean toppling their governments, installing strongman dictators, stoking their illicit drug production, killing their indigenous populations, and stealing their resources, which, come to think of it, is sort of how the U.S. came into existence in the first place.”

And no, this isn’t only the policy of those evil Republicans.  It was the policy of Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, and it’s also the policy of the Nobel Peace Laureate currently managing the corporate entity known as the United States of America.

Now, with that in mind, please have a look at this recent article by the criminally under appreciated Tom Engelhardt.

All-Volunteer Wars

May 5, 2010

Still, there was this headline awaiting my return: “Afghan lawmaker says relative killed after U.S. soldiers raided her home.”  Sigh.

After nine years in which such stories have appeared with unceasing regularity, I could have written the rest of it myself while on vacation, more or less sight unseen.  But here it is in a nutshell: there was a U.S. night raid somewhere near the Afghan city of Jalalabad.  American forces (Special Operations forces, undoubtedly), supposedly searching for a “Taliban facilitator,” came across a man they claimed was armed in a country in which the unarmed man is evidently like the proverbial needle in a haystack.  They shot him down.  His name was Amanullah.  He was a 30-year-old auto mechanic and the father of five. As it happened, he was also the brother-in-law of Safia Siddiqi, a sitting member of the Afghan Parliament.  He had, as she explained, called her in a panic, thinking that brigands were attacking his home compound.

And here was the nice touch for those U.S. Special Operations guys, who seem to have learning abilities somewhat lower than those of a hungry mouse in a maze when it comes to hearts-and-minds-style counterinsurgency warfare.  True, in this case they didn’t shoot two pregnant mothers and a teenage girl, dig the bullets out of the bodies, and claim they had stumbled across “honor killings,” as Special Operations troops did in a village near Gardez in eastern Afghanistan in March; nor did they handcuff seven schoolboys and a shepherd and execute them, as evidently happened in Kunar Province in late December 2009; nor had they shot a popular imam in his car with his seven-year-old son in the backseat, as a passing NATO convoy did in Kabul, the Afghan capital, back in January; nor had they shadowed a three-vehicle convoy by helicopter on a road near the city of Kandahar and killed 21 while wounding 13 via rocket fire, as U.S. Special Forces troops did in February.  They didn’t wipe out a wedding party — a common enough occurrence in our Afghan War — or a funeral, or a baby-naming ceremony (as they did in Paktia Province, also in February), or shoot up any one of a number of cars, trucks, and buses loaded with innocent civilians at a checkpoint.

In this case, they killed only one man, who was unfortunately — from their point of view — reasonably well connected.  Then, having shot him, they reportedly forced the 15 inhabitants in his family compound out, handcuffed and blindfolded them (including the women and children), and here was that nice touch: they sent in the dogs, animals considered unclean in Islamic society, undoubtedly to sniff out explosives.  Brilliant!  “They disgraced our pride and our religion by letting their dogs sniff the holy Koran, our food, and the kitchen,” Ms. Siddiqi said angrily.  And then, the American military began to lie about what had happened, which is par for the course.  After the angry legislator let them have it (“…no one in Afghanistan is safe — not even parliamentarians and the president himself”) and the locals began to protest, blocking the main road out of Jalalabad and chanting “Death to America!,” they finally launched an investigation.  Yawn.

If I had a few bucks for every “investigation” the U.S. military launched in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years after some civilian or set of civilians died under questionable circumstances, I might be on vacation year around.

The U.S. military can, however, count on one crucial factor in its repetitive war-making: kill some pregnant mothers, kill some schoolboys, gun down a good Samaritan with two children in his car trying to transport Iraqis wounded in an Apache helicopter attack to a hospital, loose a whirlwind that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths — and still Americans at home largely don’t care.  After all, for all intents and purposes, it’s as if some other country were doing this on another planet entirely, and “for our safety” at that.

In that sense, the American public licenses its soldiers to kill civilians repetitively in distant frontier wars.  As a people — with the exception of relatively small numbers of Americans directly connected to the hundreds of thousands of American troops abroad — we couldn’t be more detached from “our” wars.  Repetition, schmepetition.  The real news is that Conan O’Brien “got very depressed at times” after ceding “The Tonight Show” to Jay Leno (again) and that the interview drove CBS’s “60 Minutes” to a ratings success.

The creation of the All-Volunteer Army in the 1970s was a direct response to the way the draft and a citizen’s army undermined an imperial war in Vietnam.  When it came to paying attention to or caring about such wars, it also turned out to mean an all-volunteer situation domestically (and that, too, carries a price, though it’s been a hard one for Americans to see).

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1 Comment

  1. […] 1. They most certainly do not hate us for our freedom. […]


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