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Self-Designated World Policeman Must End Its Longest War

The News
March 27, 2012

The long war
Roedad Khan

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The US war in Afghanistan now in its 11th year is a war of choice. Not a war of necessity. The overwhelming desire of the Afghans is to see the war end along with the fervent wish to see the back of the US army. It has hardened their determination to fight for their country, to defend their homeland against what they view as an alien, repugnant and inhumane enemy.

How long is it going to take for the US to recognise that the war it so foolishly started is a fiasco – tragic, deeply dehumanising and ultimately un-winnable? How much more time, how much more money and how many more wasted lives is it going to take? One thing is clear. Peace and stability will never resume as long as aggression continues and US soldiers remain on Afghan soil. Instead of enacting a charade, the US should turn the country over to a genuine international coalition headed by the United Nations and get out.

Today, contrary to John Adam’s advice, the US stalks the world alone in search of monsters to destroy.

“A democracy”, General George C Marshall once said, “cannot fight a seven years war”. The US war in Afghanistan has been going on for eleven long years and victory is nowhere in sight.

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On March 11, 2012, a US army sergeant, without any provocation, methodically killed 16 unarmed civilians, nine of them children, in three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Some of the bodies had single, execution-style bullet wounds in the head. The villagers had barricaded themselves in their homes, blocking the doors with odd pieces of furniture in a vain attempt to protect themselves and their womenfolk from the attacker. According to reports, US soldiers, often under the influence of drink, roam the streets and nobody feels safe. Afghan women are paralysed with the all-too-justified fear of being raped.

The deadly rampage of a heavily-armed US soldier, in the wake of other similar provocative incidents like the desecration and burning of the Holy Quran at the Bagram air base and a video showing US Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters provoked countrywide outrage, an outpouring of revulsion against the US army and a threat of vengeance from the Afghans.

It was another country in another time but the actions were similar. On March 16, 1968, soldiers of US “Charlie” Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the American Division murdered between 347 to 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam which later came to be known as the My Lai Massacre. Most of the victims were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. Some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated. While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but only served three and a half years under house arrest! Anyone who thinks that the perpetrator of the Kandahar massacre would be brought to justice and executed must have his head examined.

Afghans are no strangers to foreign military interventions in their country. After nine years of occupation, the last Soviet soldier left Afghan territory on Wednesday, February 15, 1989 at 11:55 A.M. local time. General Boris V Gromov, a hero of the Soviet Union and commander of all Soviet forces in Afghanistan, walked across the Steel Friendship Bridge to the border city of Termez in Uzbekistan. “There is not a single soldier or officer left behind me”, General Gromov told a television reporter waiting on the bridge. “Our nine-year stay ends with this”.

“The United Nations negotiated the Russian exit,” said the Times of London on April 27. “Its job is now done. The world has no business in that country’s tribal disputes and blood feuds”. Americans too walked away from Afghanistan. The rest of the world also forgot Afghanistan and abandoned the Afghans to their fate. Afghanistan was plunged into a bloody civil war.

The Taliban capture of Kabul in 1996 virtually terminated the civil war in which over 50,000 people had lost their lives. Now, after more than thirty years of foreign occupation Afghanistan is a country of demolished cities, disabled war veterans, amputees, young widows, orphaned children, torn-up roads and hungry people.

Afghans are helpless victims of a war foisted upon them by the US that has only brought misery and produced a catastrophe. “Fighting beyond one’s border”, Chairman Mao famously said, “is criminal”. The US war in Afghanistan now in its 11th year is a war of choice. Not a war of necessity. The overwhelming desire of the Afghans is to see the war end along with the fervent wish to see the back of the US army. It has hardened their determination to fight for their country, to defend their homeland against what they view as an alien, repugnant and inhumane enemy.

The Americans are sinking more and more deeply into the fetid quagmire of Afghanistan and neither the president nor General Allen nor anyone else has the slightest clue about how to get out. The counterinsurgency zealots in the military want the president to completely scrap his already shaky timetable for the beginning of a withdrawal. Getting into a war is generally a piece of cake. Getting out tends to be another matter altogether – especially when the commander in chief and his commanders in the field disagree on the advisability of doing so.

How long is it going to take for the US to recognise that the war it so foolishly started is a fiasco – tragic, deeply dehumanising and ultimately un-winnable? How much more time, how much more money and how many more wasted lives is it going to take? One thing is clear. Peace and stability will never resume as long as aggression continues and US soldiers remain on Afghan soil. Instead of enacting a charade, the US should turn the country over to a genuine international coalition headed by the United Nations and get out. Playing the world’s policeman is not the answer to the catastrophe in New York in 2001. Playing the world’s policeman is what led to it.

Until the turn of the 20th century, US foreign policy was basically quite simple: to fulfil the country’s manifest destiny, and to remain free of entanglements overseas. The US favoured democratic governments wherever possible, but abjured action to vindicate its preferences. John Quincey Adams, then secretary of state, summed up this attitude in 1821. “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled there will her (America’s) heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own”. Today, contrary to John Adam’s advice, the US stalks the world alone in search of monsters to destroy.

Washington wants to retain bases, special forces and military advisors in Afghanistan until at least 2024. It wants to keep sufficient forces on the ground that can both continue to hunt Al-Qaeda and prop up a corrupt administration in Kabul. One thing is clear that the Afghans will never accept this. The continued presence of US forces will make agreement with the Taliban impossible, so the war will continue.

“A democracy”, General George C Marshall once said, “cannot fight a seven years war”. The US war in Afghanistan has been going on for eleven long years and victory is nowhere in sight. President Obama will be well advised to follow the first rule of holes, stop digging and extricate his troops from the “Graveyard of Empires?”

The writer is a former federal secretary.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. al oz
    March 27, 2012 at 3:42 am

    ” to defend their homeland against what they view as an alien, repugnant and inhumane enemy “. We all are doing this, everybody around the world, we just don’t know how to do it for now. Let people speak for themselves, don’t blame them to be insane or to be on drugs. Let them speak for themselves. When the producer of Kony 2012 was masturbating facing public naked in broad day light, he spoke for himself. When the team in Afghanistan, got out of their base, and killed these women and children. They spoke for themselves. Let them speak for themselves. Nobody can speak for themselves these days. Yet everybody has this
    sectarian and fearful spirit growing in their heads. We all fight against a repugnant and inhumane alien.

  2. AR
    March 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

    The US war in Afghanistan now in its 11th year is a war of AGGRESSION. Period.

    All this rhetoric about “war of choice” you always hear is simply an Orwellian euphemism to minimize and downplay the brutal reality of American aggression.

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