Summary: The Allies, led by the USA, hoped that WWII was the last great tribal war — or at least the last tribal war waged by great powers. The dream has been betrayed by its creators. Our guilt. Closing our eyes to these terrible events only increases the damage — to those whom we’re attacking, and to ourselves. The hollow lies about their ties to the perpetrators of 9-11 (the big lie of the long war) fool only ourselves. We’ve entered the 21st century with blood on our hands. Today we have a guest post by Nima Shirazi spelling out what we need to know.
Another Civilian Massacre
and the Savagery of Our Soldiers
by Nima Shirazi
From Wide Asleep in America,
… 11 March 2012
Reposted here with the author’s
…. generous permission.
It’s long. Please read it all, carefully. I’ve added section headlines. The comment section is open.
“Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare … there was an altogether new element in the sickening quality of the Morlocks — a something inhuman and malign … I wondered vaguely what foul villainy it might be that the Morlocks did under the new moon.”
— H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, 1895
That was then: Americans denounce barbarism in Iraq
Nearly eight years ago, on 1 April 2004, former speech writer and Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, where she was a contributing editor. It began like this (emphasis in original):
The world is used to bad news and always has been, but now and then there occurs something so brutal, so outside the normal limits of what used to be called man’s inhumanity to man, that you have to look away. Then you force yourself to look and see and only one thought is possible: This must stop now. You wonder, how can we do it? And your mind says, immediately: Whatever it takes.
The brutal, inhuman event she was referring to was the killing in the Iraqi city of Fallujah of four American civilian contractors, whose SUV was ambushed by rocket-propelled grenades the day before. The 4 men, all employees of the infamous mercenary outfit Blackwater, were shot, their bodies burned, mutilated, and dragged through the streets in celebration. The charred corpses of two of those killed that day were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River. The news, and accompanying photographs, sent shockwaves of horror and disgust through the United States and prompted endless editorials from coast to coast.
Noonan described “the brutalization of their corpses” as “savage, primitive, unacceptable” and decried that the “terrible glee of the young men in the crowds, and the sadism they evinced, reminds us of the special power of the ignorant to impede the good.” She wrote that the Iraqis responsible for such gruesome actions “take pleasure in evil, and they were not shy to show it. They are arrogant. They think barbarity is their right.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan condemned the killings as “despicable, horrific attacks” and “cowardly, hateful acts,” saying, “it was inexcusable the way those individuals were treated.” He called those responsible for the deaths “terrorists” and “a collection of killers” and vowed that “America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.”
A few days later in the San Diego Union-Tribune, editor Robert J. Caldwell wroteof the “grisly horror,” the “shocking slaughter,” the “barbarism” and “butchery,” the “homicidal hatred,” and insisted that “if we permit atrocities like the one in Fallujah to drive the U.S.-led coalition into retreat and premature withdrawal” and “[i]f we falter in Iraq, we let the mob in Fallujah win.” Similarly, Noonan suggested,
It would be good not only for elemental justice but for Iraq and its future if a large force of coalition troops led by U.S. Marines would go into Fallujah, find the young men, arrest them or kill them, and, to make sure the point isn’t lost on them, blow up the bridge.
Whatever the long-term impact of the charred bodies the short term response must be a message to Fallujah and to all the young men of Iraq: the violent and unlawful will be broken. Savagery is yesterday; it left with Saddam.
In fact, in retaliation, savagery returned with a vengeance as United States Marines immediately bombarded Fallujah, killing over 600 Iraqis, most of them women, children, and the elderly in the very first week of the assault in early April 2004, eleven months after George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.” By the end of the year, after two massive assaults on the city by the U.S. military, over 2,000 Iraqis, including hundreds of women and children, had been killed by American soldiers, thousands more injured and at least 300,000 displaced.
Such is the American capacity for blood-thirsty revenge.
This is now, in Afghanistan
Nowhere has this vengeance been more tragically demonstrated than Afghanistan and upon an innocent and terrorized civilian population that bears absolutely no responsibility for the events that led the United States to invade and occupy the country over a decade ago.
According to the official U.S. government story, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were carried out by 19 hijackers, none of whom were from Afghanistan. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and another from Lebanon. None of them lived in Afghanistan. They lived in Hamburg, Germany. They didn’t train in Afghanistan, but rather in Sarasota, Florida. They didn’t attend flight school in Afghanistan; their school was in Minnesota. The attacks were reportedly planned in many places, including Falls Church, Virginia and Paris, France, but not in Afghanistan.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan offered repeatedly “to hand bin Laden over to a neutral Islamic country for trial, if there is proof of his crimes.” In response, George W. Bush replied, “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over.”
On October 1, 2001, the Taliban repeated their offer, telling reporters in Pakistan, “We are ready for negotiations. It is up to the other side to agree or not. Only negotiation will solve our problems.” The next day, when Bush was asked about this offer at a press conference, he replied: “There’s no negotiations. There’s no calendar. We’ll act on our time.” Refusing to provide any evidence of bin Laden’s guilt, U.S. officials stated that the Taliban offer was “inadequate” and instead “dispatched war planes and ships towards Afghanistan,” beginning its illegal bombing campaign on October 7, 2001.
By early December 2001, over 6,500 tons of munitions had been dropped on Afghanistan by US-led NATO forces, including approximately 12,000 bombs and missiles. By the end of March 2002, over 21,000 bombs and missiles had been dropped, murdering well over 3,000 Afghan civilians in air strikes. In the first two months alone, Afghan civilians were killed at an average rate of 45 per day.
The killing has continued unabated for over ten years and is routinely ignored by the mainstream media, which choose instead to praise American soldiers for their duty, their heroism, and their sacrifice.
Punitive strikes and collateral damage in Afghanistan
Just last month, on 8 February 2012, a NATO air strike killed several children in the eastern Kapinsa province of Afghanistan, with “young Afghans of varying ages” identified among the casualties. Similar strikes were responsible for the murders of nearly 200 civilians last year alone. Furthermore, in less than ten months from 2010 to early 2011, well over 1,500 Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. and NATO forces in night raids, a brutal occupation tactic that has been embraced – along with drone attacks – by Barack Obama. According to a September 2011 study by the Open Society Foundation, “An estimated 12 to 20 night raids now occur per night, resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.”
The latest incident (another link on the chains weighing us down)
These raids produce heavy civilian casualties and often target the wrong people. And earlier today, Sunday 11 March 2012, Reuters reported,
Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including 9 children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk. One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.
Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire.
The New York Times reported that “a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children,” after “[s]talking from home to home.”
Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. At the first, the man gathered 11 bodies, including those of four girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.
The Guardian added, “Among the dead was a young girl in a green and red dress who had been shot in the forehead. The bodies of other victims appeared partially burned. A villager claimed they had been wrapped in blankets and set on fire by the killer.” The mainstream media was quick to follow the lead of “U.S. military officials” who “stressed that the shooting was carried out by a lone, rogue soldier, differentiating it from past instances in which civilians were killed accidentally during military operations.”
While Reuters noted that, while ” U.S. officials” asserted “that a lone soldier was responsible,” this conflicted with “witnesses’ accounts that several U.S. soldiers were present.”
“I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren,” said a weeping Haji Samad, who said he had left his home a day earlier. The walls of the house were blood-splattered. “They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,” Samad told Reuters at the scene. Neighbors said they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk.
“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” said neighbor Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where killings took place. “Their (the victims’) bodies were riddled with bullets.”
A senior U.S. defense official in Washington rejected witness accounts that several apparently drunk soldiers were involved. “Based on the preliminary information we have this account is flatly wrong,” the official said. “We believe one U.S. service member acted alone, not a group of U.S. soldiers.”
“Some villagers reported that more than one US soldier was involved,” wrote Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian‘s Kabul-based correspondent, “but Afghan officials and the NATO-led coalition said they believed the killer worked alone.”
The Washington Post quoted Fazal Mohammad Esaqzai, deputy chief of the Kandahar provincial council, as saying, “They entered the room where the women and children were sleeping, and they were all shot in the head. They were all shot in the head.” Esaqzai was “doubtful of the U.S. account suggesting that the killings were the work of a lone gunman … About an hour later, residents in a nearby village heard gunshots, and they later discovered the corpses of five men inside two houses located near each other, Esaqzai said.”
A reporter for The New York Times inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base counted 16 dead, and saw burns on some of the children’s legs and heads. “All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned,” said Anar Gula, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the house after the soldier had left. “We put out the fire.'”
One of the survivors from the attack, Abdul Hadi, 40, said he was at home when a soldier broke down the door. “My father went out to find out what was happening, and he was killed,” he said. “I was trying to go out and find out about the shooting, but someone told me not to move, and I was covered by the women in my family in my room, so that is why I survived.”
U.S. officials were also quick to express their “deep sadness” as they described the “individual act” as an “isolated episode.” Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw, deputy commander of the international coalition in Afghanistan, called the murders “callous.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Afghan president Hamid Karzai, “I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved.” U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident…does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”
It’s a long and heavy chain. Like those described in A Christmas Carol
These isolated incidents and that kind of respect have been obliterating the lives of Afghan civilians for over a decade. Such exceptional character was responsible for the premeditated murders of at least three Afghan civilians in Kandanhar in the first half of 2010. Between January and May 2010, members of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade, who called themselves the “Kill Team,” executed three Afghans – a 15-year-old boy, a mentally-retarded man, and a religious leader – staged combat situations to cover-up the killings, snapped commemorative and celebratory photographs with the murdered corpses, and took fingers and teeth as trophies. Peggy Noonan might say that they thought barbarity was their right.
To date, 11 soldiers have been convicted in connection to the murders. Last year, one of the soldiers, Specialist Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the killings. One of the leaked Kill Team photos shows “Morlock smiling as he holds a dead man up by the hair on his head.”
At the beginning of his court-martial, Morlock bluntly told the judge, “The plan was to kill people, sir.” Nevertheless, he may be eligible for parole in less than seven years.
Last month, a video posted online showed 4 giddy U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three slain Afghan men while saying things like “Have a good day, buddy” and “Golden like a shower.” One of the soldiers was the platoon’s commanding officer. Just a few weeks later, American troops at Bagram Air Base deliberately incinerated numerous copies of the Qur’an and other religious texts in a garbage pit, sparking mass riots across Afghanistan and leading to a rash of killings of U.S. and NATO soldiers by Afghans armed and trained by NATO. Just two days ago, in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa, “NATO helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents instead fired on civilians, killing four and wounding three others.”
A 2011 military report determined – shockingly – that the treatment of Afghans by the occupying armies was one reason why members of the Afghan National Security Force sometimes kill their NATO comrades. The report credited such actions to “a crisis of trust and cultural incompatibility.” One would hope that night raids, drone strikes, the willful execution of men, women, and children, mutilating, desecrating and pissing on corpses would be “incompatible” with any “culture.”
We’re fighting al Qaeda. We’ll always be fighting al Qaeda, even after they’ve all died
In the wake of the Qur’an burnings, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, “We can’t forget what the mission is – the need to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda remains,” and stressed that “the overall importance of defeating al-Qaeda remains.”
Carney said this despite the fact that, in late June 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta judged that the number of al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan was “at most … maybe 50 to 100, maybe less.” In April 2011, General David Petraeus told reporters in Kabul that al-Qaeda’s total strength in Afghanistan is “generally assessed at less than 100 or so” combatants, of whom only “a handful” were seen to pose a threat to Western countries. Months later, in November 2011, The Washington Post quoted a “senior U.S. counterterrorism official” as saying, “We have rendered the organization that brought us 9/11 operationally ineffective.” The official also stated that al-Qaeda’s entire leadership consisted only of two top positions and described the group as having none of “the world-class terrorists they once had.”
As such, the U.S. military and its coalition partners have been waging a war against a civilian population, allegedly in pursuit of what remains of a leaderless and powerless band of potential terrorists affiliated with the group accused (but never charged, tried or convicted) of planning and executing the 9/11 attacks.
To make matters even more appalling, hardly any Afghans even know the “reason” why foreign armies have invaded and occupied their land and have been killing their family and friends for years. A survey released by the International Council on Security and Development in November 2010 revealed that, “in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the two provinces currently suffering the most violence” and where Obama had recently sent thousands of American soldiers, “92% of respondents in the south are unaware of the events of 9/11 or that they triggered the current international presence in Afghanistan,” after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks. Furthermore, of those interviewed (1,000 Afghan men ages 15 to 30), 40% “believe the international forces are there to destroy Islam, or to occupy or destroy Afghanistan.” Chances are, incinerating their holy scripture and bombing their villages don’t help challenge this perception.
Consequently, when American missiles and bullets tear through villages, rooftops, windshields, and the living, breathing bodies of Afghan men, women, boys and girls, the carnage is devoid of “context” – not that a deadly attack on U.S. soil over a decade ago can possibly, in any conceivable, legal, or human way, justify the atrocities, trauma, terror, dehumanization and devastation that have befallen the Afghan people at the orders and hands of American soldiers, officers, and commanders-in chief.
Other links on the chain
Such criminal brutality is obviously not limited to Afghanistan. Sunday’s massacre of 16 human beings in Kandahar recalls the massacre in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. Following the death of one soldier (and wounding of two others) by a roadside bomb, a squad of Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women, an elderly man, and children, some of them toddlers.
Led by Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich (who told his men to “shoot first and ask questions later”), Marines ordered a taxi driver and four students at the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah out of their car and shot them dead in the street. The Marines then raided three nearby homes, slaughtering everyone they came in contact with.
Along with his 66-year-old wife Khamisa Tuma Ali, three grown sons, a 32-year-old woman and a four-year-old child, 76-year-old, wheelchair-bound Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali was killed in his own home after having his chest and abdomen riddled with bullets. Nine-year-old Eman Walid witnessed the slaughter of her family. “First, they went into my father’s room, where he was reading the Koran and we heard shots,” she said. “I couldn’t see their faces very well—only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.”
Younis Salim Khafif, 43, his wife Aida Yasin Ahmed, 41, their 8-year-old son Muhammad, 14-year-old daughter Noor, 10-year-old daughter Sabaa, 5-year-old daughter Zainab, 3-year-old daughter Aisha and a one-year-old baby girl who was staying at their home were all attacked with hand grenades and shot to death at close range. In the third house, four adult brothers, Jamal, Marwan, Qahtan and Chasib Ahmed were all killed by the Marines. Another brother, Yousif, who survived the attack, recalled, “The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father’s bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet.” The soldiers then took photos of the dead and desecrated their bodies by urinating on them.
Despite overwhelming evidence, only a single solider, Wuterich, stood trial for these murders. All charges against the other Marines who committed these atrocities were dropped or dismissed. Wuterich, whose own charges of assault and manslaughter were also dropped, was convicted on January 24, 2012 of only negligent dereliction of duty. He got a demotion and a pay cut. His sentence did not include any jail time. This kind of American impunity is hardly surprising.
The big picture
Over the past decade, the United States military has invaded and occupied two foreign countries (illegally bombing and drone striking at least four others), and has overseen the kidnapping, indefinite detention without charge or trial, and the physical and psychological torture of thousands of people, including at places like Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib, where detainees were raped by their American captors. Prisoners held by the United States in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, in addition to being “chained to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for days on end,” have also been beaten to death by their American interrogators. Of the fifteen soldiers charged with detainee abuse ranging from “dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter,” all but three have been acquitted. Those 3 received written reprimands and served, at most, 75 days in prison for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In response to the lethal rampage in Kandahar today, the Taliban condemned the “sick minded American savages” and vowed to “take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.” The official Taliban statement continued,
A large number from amongst the victims are innocent children, women and the elderly, martyred by the American barbarians who mercilessly robbed them of their precious lives and drenched their hands with their innocent blood.
The American terrorists want to come up with an excuse for the perpetrator of this inhumane crime by claiming that this immoral culprit was mentally ill. If the perpetrators of this massacre were in fact mentally ill then this testifies to yet another moral transgression by the American military because they are arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenceless Afghans without giving a second thought.
The words could be Peggy Noonan’s. One would assume, as the victims of this latest massacre were not trained, uniformed combat troops, heavily-armed and armored, serving in a military occupation of an invaded and destroyed foreign country, but rather innocent civilians, many of them children, that the Noonans of the world would similarly cry out for justice, for vengeance, for retribution.
But don’t hold your breath. Their silence – or worse, equivocation – will be thunderous.
About the author
Nima Shirazi is a writer, musician, and political commentator from New York City.
For more information
See all posts about our wars at the FM Reference Page About our wars – Iraq, Af-Pak & elsewhere.
Important posts about our war in Afghanistan:
- The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
- Important: You can end our war in Afghanistan, 20 August 2009
- How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan?, 15 September 2009
- About those large and growing Afghanistan security forces…, 26 September 2009
- DoD did not consider troop levels when devising our latest Af-Pak war plans, more evidence that their OODA loop is broken, 8 October 2009
- The future of Marjah, after the invasion and occupation, 23 February 2010
- A powerful story from Afghanistan, an illustration of our un-strategy at work, 18 April 2010
- Presidential decision-making about Vietnam and Afghanistan: “You have 3 choices, sir”, 5 October 2010
- Kubler-Ross gives us a good perspective on the evolution of the Afghanistan War,19 October 2010
Perhaps the worst of the effects of our long war on America:
- Bloodlust – a natural by-product of a long war?, 11 August 2009
- No longer a danger, but a reality: bloodlust in our minds, an inevitable side-effect of a long war., 25 October 2011
49 thoughts on “Bleak news, but vital for us to understand: American Morlocks: Another Civilian Massacre and the Savagery of Our Soldiers”
Wow. “no comments”? Huh. This is just that staggering, isn’t it? Overwhelming, isn’t it. Ok. It really sinnnnnkkkkks iiiinnnnn. And as FM asks: “Please read it all, carefully.
Fred Reed was more than right : “….we unlearned civilization.” “What me lie?” Note the “me and we” in both cases.
Go read the Updates at Nima’s Blog…let those sink in. Or the sidebars like these:
Truly all that is left is the preservation of your own soul, now. How awake can you be and how can you exhibit and demonstrate a meaningful counterpoint to the madness that envelops this Culture. That is a very mindful and meaningful challenge.
Thank you, FM. Breton
What is the American chain of command on the field doing? How can this kind of recurrent atrocities by American troops be perpetrated, without the assent, at least silent, of subaltern and superior officers? I wonder if it’s just a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, or worse.
1) working to get their CIB
2) getting all their tickets punched for their next promotion
3) covering up civilian casualties by calling them “insurgents” wherever possible
4) trying to portray a disaster as a success, in furtherance of #2
5) not rocking the boat
FM doesn’t leave much to say.
This will continue to happen and it will continue to get closer to home until somebody finally awakens the masses. Only God knows what will happen after that.
At the moment there is not enough resistance to the government’s actions to safely protest them in this country. To do so is to invite official and unofficial harassment that can lead up to permanent damage to your body, mind, and financial situation.
I had the opportunity to leave the country about 10 years ago but the economics looked dicey at best so I decided to stay. There hasn’t been a day in the last 6 months that I haven’t wondered if I made the wrong choice.
But I have a suggestion that might change the situation. There’s a fairly new website called change.org where people can post petitions to effect change. It’s got hundreds of thousands of people who follow it (read about Treyvon Martin, a very troubling case that might yet be positively affected by this website).
If we can find a firebrand writer who knows his stuff (I nominate FDChief over at the Graphic Firing Table and the Milpub, he’s amazing once he gets going) and add in some of these photos, we might be able to bootstrap a resistance movement pretty quickly.
Huh, looking at what I just wrote, I think I just advocated bringing the Arab Spring to America. That feels very odd.
I would hope Occupy Wall Street (and the Tea Party, at least the Ron Paul sector) would have enough of an anti-war sentiment to merit people like you injecting your views into their mix and taking it to the streets.
The OWS movement is not numerically very large yet and is currently “enjoying” the undivided attention of the US security forces while they discuss why they exist and try to figure out what to do next. Their most useful attribute is that they are showing us the tactics of the security forces without the rest of us having to get hurt in the process.
OWS may yet gel into something more formidable but I would fear the improved organization because the change would be caused by pain and the organization would be warped by the experience.
“This incident…does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”
Nothing more clearly illustrates the true psychotic nature of those in charge. And FWIW…this idea of the lone nut assassin is textbook. Periodically offer up one of the tools…but save the “system”
A detestable situation…but one comfortably employed by the culture of the death merchants.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone, because given a long enough occupation, well, this is what happens. I think in some ways this guy is a victim here, and the true culprits are the one who ordered him into this situation, and those who wanted this war in the first place. The ‘lone gunman’ theory serves well to conceal their crimes.
“We are not the kind of nation which indulges in this kind of atrocity, and the fact that we do indulge in them does not imply that we are that kind of nation”
(Not a real quote)
Again (from my point of view) the propensity for top down, gut level thinking; i.e. identifying “good” people, then excusing all actions by them on the grounds that, even if they are evil, they are motivated by good intent. Of course, the adversaries are evil personified, since they are in opposition to us, “the good guys”.
There are plenty of these thinkers on the left, and they are absolutely dominant on the right in such groups add the military and organized religion.
Agreed. This is a good example of bipartisan thinking, common ground for Left and Right. No surprise, since both are composed of Americans.
“because given a long enough occupation, well, this is what happens.”
As the Israel/Palestine conflict epitomizes. Resulting in a loss of support and demonization, internationally.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
That is a brilliant article, in every way.
It forces us to confront the american attitude that the treatment of the blackwater mercenaries was “inhuman” (as was the treatment of the us troops killed in the ‘blackhawk down’ incident in Mogadishu) – abusing the bodies, displaying them, and dragging them through the streets — but how is that different from photographing a fellow soldier urinating on a civilian, or collecting body parts off a civilian who was shot for fun? We confront the horrific american vengeance inflicted on Fallujah, attacked street by street and house by house by US Marines and it makes us wonder what the final Saigon-style scramble for the helicopters will look like when it comes to Kabul. Instinctively, we know it will not be pretty.
Command of the inevitable debacle is already being passed around hot-potato style; who will be the US’ Rene Coigny or Henri Navarre? Those who could declare victory and run for the revolving door, like Petraeus (and less competently McChrystal) have already done so. What amazes me is that the Afghans are, so far, playing relatively nice. I don’t think our leaders have really thought through how bad it might get. As I’ve said elsewhere, were I involved in Iranian or Pakistani government intelligence, I would be preparing to supply the Afghan insurgents with SA-7s or Stingers – because paybacks are a bitch and the US has been rolling out the rose-covered carpet begging for our chickens to come home to roost.
Anyone who doesn’t understand how bad it can get to exit Afghanistan should read the story of Sale’s exit from Kabul through the Khyber Pass in 1842. We have a lot of assets in Afghanistan and when our interior lines begin to shorten, air support will not work (viz: Dien Bien Phu) and if there’s credible antiair assets or artillery within range of the airstrip at Baghram, air exfiltration is not an option. Again, Dien Bien Phu) Van Giap was not a brilliant commander – merely tenacious and competent – but if the Afghans managed to unify by someone even close to in his league, exiting Afghanistan could prove a bit harder than an election-year promise. Hopefully when the election season ends, if Obama wins, he’ll no longer fear the political backlash and will get the troops out before they’re cut off.
Unspeakable atrocity. We need to get out of Afghanistan; out of Iraq; out of every one of these idiotic, pointless theaters of war. What on earth can we gain by an involvement anywhere in central Asia? Why is there a single American fighting man in central Asia?
I have been following this blog for a few months and feel I have given it a solid chance. After this article and associated comments I realize the literary essays are on the level of Howard Zinn—selective, fact based and histrionic.
I completely recognize the sincere outrage expressed by the guests and authors on this site, but it is highly selective and cannot represent human history. The lessons of relativism, force-fed in this article, are not only sanctimonious, they are false and unrepresentative. It did not include children suicide bombers, the uniformed ally assassins, the silent locals running interference. Instead it throws unsubstantiated claims like this in your face:
“The killing has continued unabated for over ten years and is routinely ignored by the mainstream media, which choose instead to praise American soldiers for their duty, their heroism, and their sacrifice.”
We are all going to die, get mad? I ask what are we willing to die/live for? In that answer you will find a closer, humane explanation of war and vengeance.
No sane person will defend senseless killing from any party or group and if this post violates the rules for being preachy, my apologies.
You missed the beginning with the Peggy Noonan reference and the ending with the same reference, didn’t you? Quick, look back, hurry…oh rats, you missed it, the Point!
“Relativism” with your references to children suicide bombers, uniformed ally assasins etc. surely is meant to balance the redundant attrocities committed by an all-volunteer army in our name?
“I ask what are we willing to die/live for? In that answer you will find a closer, humane explanation of war and vengeance.”
Elaborate on that please. The humane explanation part especially.
I patiently read Aesop’s comment, waiting for some specific criticisms. Then I got to the climax:
Can anyone explain what might be the point of that comment? It makes no sense to me.
No need to apologize. Please attempt to explain what you are attempting to say. I will give one more example.
Nobody here attempts to “represent human history”. If indeed someone could do such a thing, it would take volumes. Here we look at small historical events, like those in our long war, weighing the costs and benefits. Chapter by chapter, hoping over time to gain a clearer perspective on events — and descern their meaning.
It seems clear to me that the points made in this article are not representative of our foreign policy efforts in the middle east. The premise being, we are morally equivalent to mutant troglodytes if we defend any military expedition to further our interests overseas. The evidence given to support the argument is a handful of atrocities, in Americas longest war, that were not ordered and subsequently punished. It is morally reprehensible to draw a comparison to what NAZI Germany brought about for decades.
It is very easy to take the moral high-ground when one is sitting on a fence. Judging conflict with the clarity of hindsight is no substitute for foresight and ambivalence only prolongs the violence.
Using this terrible action committed by a ravenous barbarian to define an international effort to pacify the darkest region on earth is, at best, disingenuous.
The real issue was summed up best by Putin in his letter to Russians after the election last month.
The international community is very interested in the influence and outcome of the United States efforts. To ensure a fair environment for free people, we need to meet our objectives. If said objectives are not clear, we need to define them for our military ambassadors as-well-as the national public.
However, I no longer trust the objectivity of this FM onion.
“Using this terrible action committed by a ravenous barbarian to define an international effort to pacify the darkest region on earth is, at best, disingenuous.”
Both international law and US law consider such crusades illegal. There is neither Congressional authorization nor public support for such a venture. For good reason, history shows that they usually lead to bloodshed without purpose, and often disguise naked self-interest and corruption. (It’s also daft to call this the “darkest region on earth”. See the East African slaves, the horrors of central Africa, the cold efficient elmination of Tibet culture, etc).
Aesop’s entire comment consists of such fallacies, intermixed with falsehoods (see this FM reference page about these wars for details). It’s an astonishing thing to write after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, testimony to many Americans inability to see the world clearly or learn from experience. If nothing else, events will eventually shake us back to reality — but probably at great cost.
Wow, fallacies and falsehoods? The only fallacy I am reading is the straw man set up in this article. FM has yet to address the more serious criticism of selective outrage and ambivalent moral relativism. Not to mention:
“Both international law and US law consider such crusades illegal. There is neither Congressional authorization nor public support for such a venture.”
The U.S. Senate passed S.J.RES.23 98 yea ) nay authorizing military in Afghanistan. And, international law should never trump our own sovereignty as a free republic, but if it did: U.N. resolution 1378 also gave red tape backing for action in the region. But, I guess predictive histrionics are more fun on this site. FM should make up his mind; is this is a moral argument or a legal one?
I’ve long since lost interest in this tripe, trotted out and deeply debunked endlessly during the past decade. The same lies and fallacies, repeated over and over again.
But one final note, a point made thousands of times during the past decade. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists gave the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.
It said nothing about Aesop’s “international effort to pacify the darkest region on earth”. Nor did the UN. Nor did anybody at the time with an oz of sanity. Nor does more than a tiny minority of Americans today approve of such a crusade. That is madness.
US officials admit that al Qaeda has a tiny number of people in Afghanistan, and probably no longer exists as a meaningful force anywhere (the nationalistic insurgencies using its brand name — which we estabilished as the gold standard for jihadists — are different entities). The training and planning for 9-11 was done in the West (mostly the US and Germany); the 9-11 Commission said that Afghanistan played no significant role in 9-11. Bin laden was hiding in Pakistan, and is now dead. There is no longer a rational (in terms of US national interest) or legal basis to continue to prop up the tyrannic and corrupt government in Afghanistan, nor wage war against a largely ethnic and religious civil war there.
The Constitution is dying because so many Americans are ignorant of what it says.
Aesop: “And, international law should never trump our own sovereignty as a free republic”
Article VI of the Constitution:
The US Senate ratified the United Nations Charter on 28 July 1945.
So, I am ignorant now?
Firstly, if FM is correct with the citation I previously pointed to the U.N. authorization for Afghan intervention (Resolution 1378) which called for the establishment of a transitional administration leading to the formation of a new government.
FM has not cited a precedent for the authority of international law over a United States Citizen?
I would assume the precedent does not exist thanks to the 14th amendment and the equal protection clause.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Then again, I am ignorant and my opinion is null and void.
Your words speak for themselves. I reply to direct quotes.
(1) “Firstly, if FM is correct with the citation I previously pointed to the U.N. authorization for Afghan intervention (Resolution 1378) which called for the establishment of a transitional administration leading to the formation of a new government.”
What does this sentence mean? There is an “if” clause, but it is not followed by a “then” clause.
(2) “FM has not cited a precedent for the authority of international law over a United States Citizen?”
I cited the Constitution. That forms the basis for legal precenents in the US, and is superior to them. See Wikipedia for an explanation of “precedents”.
(3) “I would assume the precedent does not exist thanks to the 14th amendment and the equal protection clause.”
False. Now Aesop is just making stuff up. Legally the provisions of treaties are laws. Aesop in effect says that laws don’t apply to Americans because of the 14th Ammendment.
We frequently see this behavior in comments. People say factually incorrect things, often casually with little thought. We’ve all done it. Then comes the increasingly desparate attempts to justify oneself, drawing increasingly widers scope to find something “right” that in pretend-land justifies the earlier mistakes. Now Aesop is debating the legal status of treaties in the US, far far from Aesop’s original assertions.
“Discussing the motives of the Afghan shooter“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 19 March 2012 — Opening:
Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.
Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.
Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearly and repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.
Note, too, that in the case of Sgt. Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification). But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the ony way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending Terrorism.
There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored. …
Let me get this straight. Muslim terrorist cutthroats target civilians as SOP EVERYDAY without so much as a peep from the MSM, but they get their panties in a wad over a Soldier killing civilans. Watch the leftwing media feeding frenzy over this shit. Rolling Stone, a death-warmed over magazine from the late 70′s, wrote a hit piece on a handful of “kill team” Soldiers from the Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade. The New York Times smears the military on a regular basis. While an infinite number of muzzie murders and atrocities gets no coverage, bad press involving American armed forces is sensationalized for months.
Lost in the yellow journalism are the justifiable actions.
Army Lieutenant Michael Behenna was convicted for killing an Al Qaeda terrorist. His case is being appealed.
Army 1SG John Hatley and two other Soldiers were convicted were convicted for killing the muslim terrorist cocksuckers who fired at them in an attempted ambush. The 1SG and his Soldiers chased them down and found their weapons cache, but that wasn’t sufficient evidence. They were told to let them go. They didn’t. Instead, they took out the trash.
The Army tried unsuccessfully to courts-martial LTC Allen West (now Congressman Allen West (R-FL), whose unwavering courage saved the lives of his Soldiers.
All things considered, I just can’t muster up a whole lot of give a fuck.
Bushels of civilians are killed in every war. That should not prevent us from doing what is necessary to defeat the enemy.
Our current enemy doesn’t wear identifiable uniforms. Taliban and Al Qaeda are notorious for recruiting and blending in with the locals and screeching “war crimes!” when you kill them and some non-combatants because they just so happen to be in the same village.
Our Soldiers are saddled with fucked up ROE, while the enemy kills carte blanche. Killing the enemy should not be a Courts Martial offence. Soldiers like 1SG John Hatley and 1st Lt. Michael Behenna should never have been prosecuted in the first place. They, unlike the military hierarchy that bullied them, did what they were trained for.
The Staff Sergeant will be tried, convicted, and sent to Leavenworth, while terrorists are continuously released from GITMO to pick up where they left off.
As for the MSM, this is just more fodder for their anti-miltary tirades.
It’s always interesting to hear from our dark side. Kill those women and children (some of whom might have become terrorists if they lived to adulthood). NAZI’s in our midst.
It’s fun to imagine the reaction of past American military leaders to such thinking. It’s an interesting exercise, showing how far the rot has spread through our veins.
Unfortunately there is a rough justice to life. These war criminals lead us to certain defeat, since the scores of 4GWs since WWII show that the moral high ground is decisive in 4GW (as it has often been in war).
“but they get their panties in a wad over a Soldier killing civilans.”
Did anyone try the “don’t get your panties in a twist” defense at Nuremberg?
Wow – unfortunately, the sizeable minority that thinks this way (vicious, tribal, and inhumane with the ability to dehumanize “them foreigners”) is doing us all in. What a sad commentary on the state of mind of our citizenry…
I was going to give a detailed analysis of sfcmac’s comments, but realized the futility. After a decade of this war, these exercises feel pointless through repetition. They Afghanistan insurgents are “enemies” to sfcmac because we’re there and they’re fighting us. They are evil because we’re good. Our killings are good, there’s are evil. These are beliefs, unaffected by any evidence or logic. But sfcmac sounds of truth, upon which we all can agree.
“All things considered, I just can’t muster up a whole lot of give a fuck.”
Which is why the war continues. The war is its own justification, and excuses all done in its name. SFCMAC does not give a fuck for the wars costs, to us or them, so long as the war continues.
Fortunately the America people have realized the futility of this, our latest foreign crusade. It’s disconnect from America’s national goals, and the lies upon which it was waged. And so it will end, and become fodder for future generations of historians to ponder this madness. And for future generations of war lovers to devise “stab in the back” legends, imaginary plans that would have resulted in certain victory, and mutter how we would have won if ony we had killed more people.
I seem to remember sfcmac from back in the day, and lo and behold, he has his own post: An excellent example of “do it yourself” propaganda, 25 January 2009.
Opening of the post:
The following comment is an interesting example of “do it yourself propaganda.” Skillfully done, and hence worth a look. It is perhaps part of conservatives’ attempt to maintain cohesion after the economic and geopolitical disasters of the Bush Administration. The Internet is flooded with material like this.
As usual with propaganda, it reads well but additional information ruins the story. Of special interest is the author’s belligerent attitude. Perhaps he believes it adds credibility.
This comment is by SFCMAC, posted here on the thread for “Some people just want to see the world burn” (17 January 2009). He gives 7 pieces of evidence for Saddam’s WMD’s.
As for his state of mind, see the postscript:
Thank you for this comment. I had forgotten.
The phrase “American Morlocks” packs a wallop and seems extreme. All soldiers engaged in an endless futile war eventually lose their sense of restraint. As the pointless killing in Afghanistan drags on and on, we can expect plenty more of these “unfortunate incidents.” This isn’t a peculiarly American pathology — it’s human nature. By 1918, British troops routinely used horrible chemical weapons against the German army, including blister agents and mustard gas.
Moreover, there’s nothing uniquely modern about American bloodlust. This happens to soldiers and generals in all wars.
Did you know that American soldiers routinely used waterboarding torture on Filipinos? America’s love affair with drowning torture isn’t new, it goes all the back to the turn of the century in 1901:
New Yorker article “The Water Cure”
In Vietnam, the preferred torture method was the Tucker Telephone rather than water torture. Tucker Telephone.
Americans have drastically sanitized our own history. War is a dirty brutal ugly business that brings out the worst in human beings. If it goes on long enough, the participants in warfare lose all sense of civilization and end up slaughtering anything that moves. This was why the endless savage wars of the 16th and 17th century, like the Thirty Years War, impelled European powers to sign the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to put an end to these kind of protracted conflicts. Interminable war reduces all its participants to barbarous savages.
A major impact of the Thirty Years’ War was the extensive destruction of entire regions, denuded by the foraging armies (bellum se ipsum alet). Episodes of famine and disease significantly decreased the populace of the German states, Bohemia, the Low Countries and Italy, while bankrupting most of the combatant powers.
I do not understand Thomas Moore’s comment. Did anyone reading this post believe a claim of historical uniqueness was made? Even schoolchildren learn about the horrors of history.
“Did you know that American soldiers routinely used waterboarding torture on Filipinos?”
It’s been discussed several times on the FM website. For a nice summary (one of many cited) see “The Water Cure: Debating torture and counterinsurgency — a century ago“, by Paul Kramer, The New Yorker, 25 February 2008.
My only way of understanding his comment was that it was an attempt to excuse the behavior of our troops. I don’t buy it, because by that standard, we’d all be beating our neighbors, lynching criminals without trial, and overall behaving according to some kind of historical average.
Also, it ironically, and perhaps in an unintended manner, is an argument for getting the hell out of our current wars as fast as possible: TM claims, after all, that such wars turn us all into absolute barbarians. He’s probably right, so we’d best call it quits before it’s too late!
That was also my first thought. But justification by comparison of a war with previous horrors (as in we’re all evil!) is quite low, and I don’t believe that was Moore’s intent.
sfcmac’s comment provides an interesting perspective. With a few changes, it becomes positively illuminating. Consider this version of his comments:
Lost in the yellow journalism are the justifiable actions of the children and brothers and sisters of the innocent peasants slaughtered in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan by bloodthirsty American butchers.
Nice passage – I think Thomas Moore is on the right side here!
In what sense “on the right side”? “Right”, as conservative? Or “right” as in morally right — your evil justifies my doing evil?
My guess is that his intent was NOT to justify our war in the sense of no worse than other horrific episodes of history. That would be very strange moral logic, even for Americans in our present degenerate condition.
Ah, a collusive agreement — Americans are unevolved, how quaint.
“Collusive agreement”? I actually don’t agree with everything FM writes, but I appreciate his thoughtful analysis. I wont’ go into my disagreements here..
Who said Americans are un-evolved?
Aesop is free to have a different ontological take on our current situation. Great, I’m sure it’s comforting. However, a reasonably objective take on our situation would point out that endless war has sickened our society unto death: the paramilitary response to the OWS protests, in which our OWN YOUTH, our future, are being bludgeoned, pepper sprayed, and shot with rubber bullets and given brain damage proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are quickly degenerating into a fearful, quasi-fascist, plutocratic banana republic where the law is used to crush dissent, but used to prop up the powerful.
The crushing of helpless foreigners in mud-hut villages is just a sideshow, but one that will eventually have great and negative repercussions.
Of all your threads you have created FM, this in many ways is your finest work. If I was, or ever had been, in any military service I would salute you, since I haven’t I will just nod appreciatively. In a single article you have shredded all the arguments, sophistry and lies about our ‘wars of choice’ in Afghanistan and so many other places.
Some commentators here (and there have been some really good ones) miss a part of the the larger picture you have painted:
When you allow/encourage/plan/order/etc your military to go feral (and that is the kindest word I can think of) in some ‘overseas adventure’ then:
You create your own destruction. Both directly and indirectly.
Directly from the sheer costs of it all in people, resources and money. Those are gone and were not applied to better areas and never can be now. EG: That fusion reactor that the US could have made .. gone. That Thorium fission reactor the could have been made .. gone. The list is endless by the way. Add how you think a trillion or so dollars spent could have been better spent. Directly in that it creates more enemies, and some so called ‘friends’ at the moment are only those because of fear .. so far. Directly because it has made enemies of those we could been friends with. China and Russia are the poster children. In their heads they must think .. when are we next, so they react to survive (Russian troops in Syria, how long until Russian and Chinese troops/planes/etc in Iran?)
Indirectly from the corruption it causes (and I mean corruption in the moral and ethical sense not just the money sense, though it happens too, but that is a symptom).
Basically it corrupts your entire society. And corrupt societies always collapse unless they change (hint poster child here is the USSR, but the historical list is impressive … basically all of them went down one way or another).
I had the great fortune to once visit a friend living in the Jutland of Denmark; he took me to the old German Gun Implacements at the tip of Jutland that were used to guard the entrance of the North Sea and the Baltic (in conjunction with the same on the Norwegian Coast). From there we took a road trip all the way to the Arromanches in Normandy. We stopped and visited significant former German implacements all along the Coast to arrive at the D Day Beaches. Walked Gold Beach, visited the American War Cemetery and most amazingly, met by happen stance, old WW II French guys in the Train Station (Gare du Caen) in the major city nearby.
If perchance one ever makes such a trip, I suspect it may change your POV re: the madness that surrounds the current form of Military adventureism in the USA. But perhaps not, in reading some of the Comments here, I wonder.
That’s a powerful quote. I often wonder if future historians will say that Hitler was just early.
Comment (by email) from a prominent geopolitical expert (retired military):
A common attitude in America, a driver of our Long War. Historians will see this as madness. Self-destructive madness.
“Afghanistan and American imperialism“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 19 March 2012 — “Afghans have been excluded from the judicial process after the shooting that left 16 dead. No wonder anti-US feeling is growing.” Opening:
US army staff sergeant Robert Bales is accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children, and then burning some of the bodies. The massacre took place in two villages in the southern rural district of Panjwai. Though this horrific crime targeted Afghans on Afghan soil, Afghanistan will play no role in investigating the crime or bringing the perpetrator (or perpetrators) to justice. That is because the US almost immediately whisked the accused out of Afghanistan and brought him to an American army base in Fort Leavensworth, Kansas.
The rapid exclusion of Afghans from the process of trying the accused shooter has, predictably and understandably, exacerbated the growing anti-American anger in that country. It is hard to imagine any nation on the planet reacting any other way to being denied the ability to try suspects over crimes that take place on its soil. A Taliban commander quickly gave voice to that nationalistic fury, announcing: “We want this soldier to be prosecuted in Afghanistan. The Afghans should prosecute him.”
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