March 30, 2015
Becoming What We Seek to Destroy
Posted on May 10, 2009
By Chris Hedges
The bodies of dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, women, children and men, their corpses blown into bits of human flesh by iron fragmentation bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes in a village in the western province of Farah, illustrates the futility of the Afghan war. We are not delivering democracy or liberation or development. We are delivering massive, sophisticated forms of industrial slaughter. And because we have employed the blunt and horrible instrument of war in a land we know little about and are incapable of reading, we embody the barbarism we claim to be seeking to defeat.
We are morally no different from the psychopaths within the Taliban, who Afghans remember we empowered, funded and armed during the 10-year war with the Soviet Union. Acid thrown into a girl’s face or beheadings? Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs? This is the language of war. It is what we speak. It is what those we fight speak.
Afghan survivors carted some two dozen corpses from their villages to the provincial capital in trucks this week to publicly denounce the carnage. Some 2,000 angry Afghans in the streets of the capital chanted “Death to America!” But the grief, fear and finally rage of the bereaved do not touch those who use high-minded virtues to justify slaughter. The death of innocents, they assure us, is the tragic cost of war. It is regrettable, but it happens. It is the price that must be paid. And so, guided by a president who once again has no experience of war and defers to the bull-necked generals and militarists whose careers, power and profits depend on expanded war, we are transformed into monsters.
There will soon be 21,000 additional U.S. soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan in time for the expected surge in summer fighting. There will be more clashes, more airstrikes, more deaths and more despair and anger from those forced to bury their parents, sisters, brothers and children. The grim report of the killings in the airstrike, issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which stated that bombs hit civilian houses and noted that an ICRC counterpart in the Red Crescent was among the dead, will become familiar reading in the weeks and months ahead.
We are the best recruiting weapon the Taliban possesses. We have enabled it to rise from the ashes seven years ago to openly control over half the country and carry out daylight attacks in the capital Kabul. And the war we wage is being exported like a virus to Pakistan in the form of drones that bomb Pakistani villages and increased clashes between the inept Pakistani military and a restive internal insurgency.
Square, Site wide
I spoke in New York City a few days ago with Dr. Juliette Fournot, who lived with her parents in Afghanistan as a teenager, speaks Dari and led teams of French doctors and nurses from Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, into Afghanistan during the war with the Soviets. She participated in the opening of clandestine cross-border medical operations missions between 1980 and 1982 and became head of the French humanitarian mission in Afghanistan in 1983. Dr. Fournot established logistical bases in Peshawar and Quetta and organized the dozen cross-border and clandestine permanent missions in the resistance-held areas of Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Badakhshan, Paktia, Ghazni and Hazaradjat, through which more than 500 international aid workers rotated.
She is one of the featured characters in a remarkable book called “The Photographer,” produced by photojournalist Didier Lefèvre and graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert. The book tells the story of a three-month mission in 1986 into Afghanistan led by Dr. Fournot. It is an unflinching look at the cost of war, what bombs, shells and bullets do to human souls and bodies. It exposes, in a way the rhetoric of our politicians and generals do not, the blind destructive fury of war. The French humanitarian group withdrew from Afghanistan in July 2004 after five of its aid workers were assassinated in a clearly marked vehicle.
“The American ground troops are midterm in a history that started roughly in 1984 and 1985 when the State Department decided to assist the Mujahedeen, the resistance fighters, through various programs and military aid. USAID, the humanitarian arm serving political and military purposes, was the seed for having a different kind of interaction with the Afghans,” she told me. “The Afghans were very grateful to receive arms and military equipment from the Americans.”
“But the way USAID distributed its humanitarian assistance was very debatable,” she went on. “It still puzzles me. They gave most of it to the Islamic groups such as the Hezb-e Islami of [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar. And I think it is possibly because they were more interested in the future stability of Pakistan rather than saving Afghanistan. Afghanistan was probably a good ground to hit and drain the blood from the Soviet Union. I did not see a plan to rebuild or bring peace to Afghanistan. It seemed that Afghanistan was a tool to weaken the Soviet Union. It was mostly left to the Pakistani intelligence services to decide what would be best and how to do it and how by doing so they could strengthen themselves.”
The Pakistanis, Dr. Fournot said, developed a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, like the Americans, flooded the country with money and also exported conservative and often radical Wahhabi clerics. The Americans, aware of the relationship with the Saudis as well as Pakistan’s secret program to build nuclear weapons, looked the other way. Washington sowed, unwittingly, the seeds of destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It trained, armed and empowered the militants who now kill them.
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