Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Costly 'Freedom' in Afghanistan:
On Morbid Wars and Logic
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, March 26, 2012
The Afghans are a proud people with a long and formidable history
of resistance to foreign occupation. The fact that they have always
prevailed, however, 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 US 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 US-NATO occupation of the
country. Kandaharis have received a bad reputation for spoiling the war
party devised by the US, NATO, and their corrupt local allies.
way, Balandi is a microcosm of Afghanistan.
When the US-led bombing
campaign of Afghanistan commenced in October 2001, many commentators
cheered. In a strikingly unequal war – with the world most advanced nations
attacking the world’s poorest - the US wanted to teach al-Qaeda terrorists a
lesson. The latter quickly disbanded and poured through neighboring borders
across the region (the violent network is now being sighted in several Arab
countries). Meanwhile, the Afghani people shouldered the brunt of the war.
Tens of thousands have since perished in a vengeful war they had no part in
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, who stated: "'Bombing Afghanistan back into the Stone
Age' was quite a favorite headline for some wobbly liberals. The slogan does
all the work. But an instant's thought shows that Afghanistan is being, if
anything, bombed OUT of the Stone Age" (Daily Mirror, November 2001).
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 renowned human rights scholar and UN
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 alliance is “rock-solid,” Obama said. "Our
world has been transformed over and over, and it will be again. Yet, through
the grand sweep of history, through all its twists and turns, there is one
constant: the rock-solid alliance between the US and the UK.” 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 US to redeploy its troops out of villages throughout the country.
‘Rock-solid’ means the US and its allies will stick to their plan of not
ending their combat operations until 2014, and then, through a US-Afghan
memorandum, maintaining a permanent military presence. Considering the
alarming killing rates of Afghans, 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 US in direct or indirect talks. As for the country’s
weak president, he cannot find the right balance of accommodating the US
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 US-NATO withdrawal from
their country, no matter the cost of that freedom. 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. What may prove ominous in future
months is the fact that 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 US to reap unclear
gains. This lack of moral and strategic centrality is turning the war into
something sadistic, strange, racist and utterly inhumane.
The US is
turning its citizens into ‘pathological killers’ wrote Falk. “American
soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters, Koran burning, and countryside
patrols whose members were convicted by an American military tribunal of
killing Afghan civilians for sport… (Whatever US officials say to explain
all of this) has 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 carefully
worded diplomatic language. What is clear, however, is that the recent spree
of violence and humiliation will further fuel the determination of Afghans
to end yet 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 US’ 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 US 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 and morbid behavior.
They produce 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).