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Interview: Time To Look At Human Dimension As Afghan War Enters Thirteenth Year

Press TV
October 19, 2013

US troops pullout misnomer: Rozoff
Interview with Rick Rozoff


Press TV has conducted an interview with Rick Rozoff, from Stop NATO International Network, from Chicago, over the United States calling for legal immunity for any US soldiers left in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 withdrawal.

What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: The US insists that their soldiers will not have legal immunity from prosecution if they committed any crimes, yet they have to be tried in the US courts. Do you believe the US stance?

Rozoff: No, I don’t believe that claim at all. The US has been operating with veritable impunity into its thirteenth year now. We have to recognize, rather, that as of eleven days ago the US-NATO war in Afghanistan has entered its thirteenth calendar year.

So, we have some period of time in which to judge what the track record i,s and it is, despite times fulsome assurances to the government of Kabul about the US consulting with its proxy regime, which is almost risible, laughable, that the US, nevertheless, and its NATO allies continue to perpetrate acts of what can only be characterized as war crimes.

Press TV: Well, we want to take a look at the track that the US has left in Afghanistan, I can go down the list but one of them that caught my attention was ‘the US Kill Team’; you might be aware of them, composed of five US soldiers, in which they said, “all you have to do is to toss a grenade and kill a bunch of Afghans,” and treated killing as sport.

One of the verdicts, 24 years in prison, in which this particular soldier said the plan was to kill people in a conspiracy with these four fellow soldiers. Is that fair in terms of the verdict that he received?

Rozoff: I would just say I do not have any particular expertise in the jurisprudential aspects of this. I can only say that we do know that for twelve years there have been air raids, there have been the sorts of night raids you described, that quite clearly have resulted in widespread loss of life among Afghan civilians and we will have opportunity, I hope, later in the show we talk about the drone Hellfire missile campaign in Afghanistan and other countries.

So, there is a clear-cut pattern of callous disregard for civilian life in Afghanistan, which has been sanctioned if not ordered by the highest military officials amongst the US and NATO commanders in Afghanistan. That is indisputable.

Press TV: Do you agree with what Lawrence Korb [the other guest of the show] has said there that in times of war these types of acts may it be illegal or immoral do happen; the basis of what I believe one of the points Lawrence Korb made there?

Rozoff: Assuredly. Yes, and unavoidably, and that’s the best argument in the world against war: that war itself is the crime and any particular manifestations of violations of the established rules of war are almost secondary to that.

Let’s step back a moment. It will soon be, next month as a matter of fact, the second anniversary of a NATO helicopter gunship attack, actually by several aircraft, against a Pakistani post where they killed twenty security personnel of Pakistan. Is this a mistake?

If Mexico or Canada were to be pursuing alleged insurgents and make a mistake by striking inside the United States and killing twenty servicemen, I think we would view this is as much more serious than simply a lapse in protocol.

The problem is the war itself, and the problem is you now have the longest war in America’s history; it’s in its thirteenth year; you have the longest war in the history of Afghanistan. Please for a moment, let us look at the human dimension about what we are talking about rather than getting into abstruse arguments about legality.

Since 1978, since the Saur Revolution in Afghanistan, which brought to power a government the United States did not like and that Washington immediately went to work with this Pakistani military ally to undermine that government and to wage war effectively uninterruptedly under one guise or another in that poor country for 35 years.

The Afghan people suffered for that period of time, three and a half decades of uninterrupted armed hostilities Please, it is time to withdraw the last American and NATO troop from that country, to fire the last Hellfire missile, to launch the last night raid in small village in the early morning hours and bring peace and some semblance of security and development to that country. That I think should be the overriding issue.

Press TV: I would like to get the reaction from Rick Rozoff to what Lawrence Korb said there at the end, in which the Afghan president, if he were to say to the US and its troops who leave, that they would leave, do you think that would happen if [Hamid] Karzai made such request?

Rozoff: US troops are leaving for domestic political purposes, I would argue, more than any other reason. However, it is of course within the realm of international law that the host government has the right to ask foreign troops, occupation troops to depart and indeed that’s what happened in Iraq in the case of the [Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri] al-Maliki government.

However, we do have to remember that the US and NATO expect to maintain from 8 to 14,000 troops in the nation under one pretext and another, as well as maintaining a presence at massively upgraded airbases in Shindand, in Bagram, north of the capital, and Kandahar and elsewhere in the country, where the US will have an airstrike capability within striking range of neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, surely, but within reasonable striking range of countries like Russia and China.

So, the US and NATO, I firmly don’t believe, are going to totally leave the country under any circumstances. As a matter of fact a leading US military official stated a couple of weeks ago, even referring to the so-called drawdown or withdrawal of troops has been, in its own words, a misnomer, because the US military and NATO intend to stay there.

The other guest has made much of the fact this is not a unilateral US undertaking or project in Afghanistan, that it in fact is conducted under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is true. I don’t think that makes it any more excusable.

What you are talking about is a US-dominated military bloc set up – ostensibly – in 1949 to protect Western and Southern Europe, now, as of 2001, is engaged in active ground war in Asia. So, two Rubicons have been crossed, if you will. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, which has been fashioned in the post-Cold War era by the United States into a global military strike force which has now waged war in three continents: in Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan, in Asia, over the last twelve years and Libya for six months in 2011, and Afghanistan has been the testing ground for the US building an integrated NATO rapid response force which can be deployed most anywhere in the world for long periods of time.

And we have to understand that some of the cynicism underlying the US policy and the NATO policy in Afghanistan and throughout South and Central Asia – we have to recall there are NATO bases in countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan; there were NATO forces in Pakistan until recently – is what the US has done is fashion a post-Cold War global military bloc out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the last twelve years in Afghanistan have been employed to integrate military forces from fifty countries – and I repeat, fifty countries – under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and it is its global military power the US has used Afghanistan to foster and to train, which is I think really the most significant fact to come out of the Afghan war.

Press TV: If you have a statement, do you want to make elaborate more on the use of drones as being done in Afghanistan which today claimed the lives of two people. If you like to expand on that ?

Rozoff: Yes, it was an elected official in the United States, as a matter of fact a firm defender of drone warfare, who estimated, I think fairly accurately, maybe six or eight weeks ago that US drone warfare has accounted for the deaths of at least 5,000 people in the past decade. That may be a slightly conservative figure; let’s say 5 to 7,000 people in seven nations.

The Hellfire missiles fired by the unmanned aerial vehicles, the drones, have been employed in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Libya – actually a drone was implicated, as a matter of fact, in firing a missile that hit the convoy of Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi and ultimately led to his brutal death – but also of course in Somalia and increasingly in Yemen.

So, what you’ve seen is the expansion, by the way there has been a forty-fold increase in the amount of drones the US military has at its disposal since the year 2000. Forty-fold increase.

So that what we’re seeing is a transition to what is basically risk-free, from the American perspective, at least in terms of its military personnel, what could be seen and what I would advocate is a cowardly method of waging warfare which has targeted assassination through the use of missiles fired by surveillance drones.

But we have seen them employed now in seven different countries – in North Africa, the Middle East, in South Asia – and we see a callous disregard for civilian collateral damage, so-called, one of the more gruesome euphemisms in our lifetime, where Pakistani sources, including government sources, have claimed at some points that up to 95 percent of those people killed by drones in their country, where the amount of the people killed is over 3,000, are not Taliban and are not al-Qaeda. They may be local militia, they are may be non-military personnel, whatsoever.

So, what you are seeing is the US president condescending to conduct weekly kill meetings, where people, including US citizens in some instances, are targeted for assassinations by Hellfire missiles fired by drones.

You know, the world should scream its outrage over this sort of violation of the most basic norms in international relations – and decency.

Press TV: The US went into Afghanistan with the name of fighting terrorism and terrorists, but we can see that some are saying this war on terrorism is an ideology of fear. Do you think that it has created actually more terrorism and ultimately more of a threat to US’s national security, not to mention the other countries in the world?

Rozoff: On the first half of that question, I think Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently stated that’s exactly what has occurred, is that far from diminishing the threat of Taliban, it’s increased it and even implied if he didn’t insinuate pretty clearly that the US may be conspiring with the Taliban.

But you know my fellow guest alluded to the “brave” US role in supporting the Mujaheddin in the 1980s and obliquely alluded to the fact that people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, who are leading two of the three forces that US and NATO forces identify as their the main enemies in Afghanistan were recipients of generous US largess in the past. The US creates the very terrorist threats it then invades countries ostensibly to fight.

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