Today's massacre in Afghanistan is business as usual, the excuses will be the same, re-heated lies. The murder and burning of Afghans by a US soldier or soldiers is not an anomaly writes Joe Glenton.
Four hundred and four dead and the apologists in the pro-war media seem in raptures about it; their tone has been one of almost masturbatory glee. They seem to echo the Italian fascist aristocrats of 1918; War as hygiene and as a bracing form of exercise; they cast it as worthy and purifying and they swing on their tyres and harp that Afghanistan is such a necessary adventure. Five of the dead were under twenty-one years of age. Afghanistan has been discussed, excused and the arguments rehashed and heated through for ten years. They’ve ‘turned so many corners’ in Afghanistan that they may all soon disappear up their own arses, let’s hope that they opt for that particularly fitting back door before the depleted uranium starts spitting over Tehran.
International Women’s Day saw the publication of an article in the Independent which re-confirmed Afghanistan as the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman. Even as Karzai – the president of a shrinking section of Kabul – nodded through a new set of sexist legislation to put above his fireplace with his law allowing rape in marriage. This is ten years into the occupation and all we have to show is a tally of the dead, at least of those dead deemed to be worth tallying – that is to say, our dead, not the Afghan dead.
What is really heart-warming is all the talk about how precious Afghan women are when we frame it with the plight of women here in the west. As any woman in any liberal society will tell you, the issues have all been resolved here. As we know exactly half of parliament is female, wages are legally pinned to those of men and wolf-whistlers and serial gropers are put on a register. This mere days after yet another attempt on the life of Malalai Joya.
No really, I suppose we have made some progress. Unlike Karzai’s crowd, we don’t force them to marry their rapists. We just squeeze them through the courts face to face with their attackers and have our snarly barristers tell them they ‘wanted it’. What a shining testament to progress. With this in mind, who could possibly question that we – above all others, above even Afghan women themselves, like the Joya’s and the Qayoom’s - are the only ones fit to pontificate.
The idea that we are in Afghanistan to help its womenfolk is the perhaps the most vicious lies, even when compared to all the other deceits. It is myth. I prefer the army term for myth, which shares a name with what emerges from the south end of a north bound bull. In this myth these Afghan women are so many Helens and Afghanistan is Troy, from which they must be prised back like stolen goods. The horse is not wooden, but crafted from lies and propaganda. It is the vehicle used by the aggressors to get inside.
It is these myths which must be attacked. Like the idea that the Afghans are rejecting the insurgency. No insurgency – and certainly not one on the scale of Afghanistan’s – can thrive like it is without plentiful local support. By that qualification, the broad swathes of Afghans not only support the insurgency, but are consciously part of it.
The insurgent relies overwhelmingly on the local population for intelligence, protection and support. You do not have to be a general or a politician versed in war-speak and braggadocio to see this. Pointing this out is not ideological; it’s just what’s happening. I cannot believe a lowly ex-lance-corporal can see this, yet it seems to stump the jangling, medal-heavy oxygen thieves at the MOD and Pentagon. Simply, they must know this and are continuing anyway. This is called hubris, not humanitarianism.
The next myth is the myth of fecklessness. This is a racist fantasy. It says that after withdrawal the people of that battered country will be incapable of ordering their own lives, so we must stay. This is to ignore that these incapable people – in Afghanistan, as in Iraq – have been beating the world’s most advanced, rich and well-equipped armies to a standstill. For ten years.
They have been doing it without any helicopters, any body armour, any media backing and with only crude IEDs, ancient Kalashnikovs and while wearing flip-flops. These people – it just seems obvious – are among the most capable in the world. Do they sound like they need any help? Have we not just conceded them a campaign office in Dohar, so the Taliban can accept our surrender?
On the evidence we have, we need to have them training our armies, not the other way around. Now, I would never want to be accused of promoting violence, but given that we’re talking about the people bent on attacking yet more countries – Iran, Syria, Somalia among them – I think I’d still be in credit if I made a suggestion. If anyone ever says to you ‘But ‘they’ need ‘us’ to ‘help them’’ poke the offender hard in the eye then, while they flail, hit them with a history book and then use the excuse that you are trying to remove whatever is obscuring their vision. Think of them like the people who say ‘I’m not a racist, but…’ or ‘I don’t want a war with Iran, but…’ or ‘Look, I’m not homophobic, but…’ They belong in a box with these kinds of idiots, preferably nailed shut and pushed out to sea.
The majority of deaths are, we are told, due to insurgent action and the blame therefore is squarely on the Taliban and their like. Which may well be the case, but it is to ignore that the insurgency is a direct response to the occupation. If there was no occupation, there would likely be no insurgency or a lesser one. Even the idea that putting tens of thousands of foreign troops into Afghanistan is likely to bring about security is ridiculous. That kind of force, when deployed, is like a hammer, if you only have a hammer all problems start to look like nails and beg to be hit.
Before the occupation and even for several years into it there was little freedom in Afghanistan, but it was safer. Simply, less people were dying. There was no insurgency of note. That is unless you count the friction at the time between the Taliban and sections of the warlords who have since been parachuted into office alongside Karzai.
The massive influx of troops – I remember it well, I was one of them – precipitated and created the insurgency we see today. The deployment was not a response to insurgency, rather it created it. Even Rory Stewart, a man of the right, a former army officer and someone who has actually been to Afghanistan, takes that position. Foreign troops come = insurgency begins with gusto. It is simply a matter of going back over the chronology and scratching off the correcting fluid.
Now, it pains me more than any Tory on earth, but the answer to the question ‘why did those boys die?’ is as uncomfortable as it is clear. They died to support an Afghan government made up of warlords and to keep it in power. They were killed protecting a despotism ‘elected’ with votes from area’s with no voting booths and in some cases, no people. They died protecting a government that passes laws which attack and undermine Afghan women. They died so thugs and extremists – some of whose excesses would make the House of Saud shudder - could continue to make money from the drugs which move from Afghanistan to the Yorkshire housing estates that the dead soldiers came from. It pains me more than it pains Cameron or Dannatt or Boris or Fox because, unlike these notable types, I know soldiers – actual soldiers, not Ruperts (officers) – from poor backgrounds.
I even know what these boys were told by the recruiters, I held in my own nervous hand the same brochures they were shown and I took the oaths they took. I know these things and I know they were killed by their own side as much as by anyone.
And just today, we see the other side of this war. The bloody end to sixteen Afghan lives near Kandahar, nine of them children. Just another night-raid in Central Asia. This one apparently ‘unsanctioned’. The witness statements emerging claim that the perpetrators – note plural – were drunk and laughing as they did the deed.
This story is as old as empire. We even know what the excuses will be in the forthcoming days. This is the case of a few bad apples. This is not representative of the armed forces as a whole. The perpetrators will be tracked down and held to account. Rubbish. What has happened in Afghanistan is business as usual and the excuses will be the same, re-heated lies. Don’t be duped. The murder and burning of Afghans by a US soldier or soldiers is not an anomaly. When you send your armies to subjugate a people, you must dehumanize both sides. I remember, perfectly, the racism which was encouraged. ‘Ragheads’, ‘Hajji’, ‘Camel Jockeys’, ‘Sand-niggers’ and the British versions ‘Chogies’, ‘Paki’s’ and the rest.
Recent history exposes the real face of the imperial project - kill-teams, Bagram prison, UK troops raping children, SS flags flying, Koran burning, house raids, kidnapping, torture, murder and mayhem. It is not a case of one loose cannon ruining the good work that has been done. It is not a case of liberal or humanitarian intervention being misapplied. There is nothing liberal or humanitarian about the occupation. This is a case of imperialism doing what imperialism does. This is what it is supposed to look like. Be appalled and but don’t be surprised. Not for a second.
And the architects of it all – our own chicken-hawks, our super long-range, deskbound snipers, our home-grown angels of death; the Panettas and the Obamas and the Camerons - have the temerity, the audacity, to even talk about interfering in Iran.
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