Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Afghanistan is not our country any more"

Here’s a story I just read in the Toronto Star. To summarize:

On the highway to Kabul, one of the open-bed trucks in a U.S. military convoy in Afghanistan had been improperly loaded and its containing straps had been snapped, spilling munitions all over the road.

The Americans stopped traffic but didn’t bother explaining why. An ambulance carrying the victim of a motorcycle accident was caught in the jam, unable to pass. While the Americans threatened anyone who approached with machine guns, the victim was lying there dying.

The journalist who wrote the piece couldn’t watch this happen, so she approached the convoy. She was afraid she’d be shot, as this happens often to people who approach military convoys. One soldier at his turret aimed his machine gun at her, and another one came over to scream at her.

Finally, the soldiers allowed the ambulance to pass.

When an ambulance passes by on the street with sirens on and lights flashing, which happens often here in New York City, motorists and pedestrians are expected to get out of the way, no matter what. This is based on the principle that, however much a hurry you are in, if someone’s life is in danger, you will step aside and patiently wait for the vehicle to get through.

Our soldiers are supposedly in Afghanistan to protect Afghanis. If that is so, then why do they so often end up protecting themselves at the cost of Afghani lives? Our entire presence in the country is represented by this anecdote.

Here is what the journalist was told by her Afghani driver at the scene of the incident:

"This is why Afghans have come to hate Americans," said my driver, who works as an interpreter for ISAF and is a strong advocate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is not our country any more. They are our bosses. They treat us sometimes as if we are trespassing on our own land."

Is this freedom? Is this liberty? Is this democracy?

No, this is empire.

7 comments:

Jose Garcia, MSgt, USA said...

"When an ambulance passes by on the street with sirens on and lights flashing, which happens often here in New York City, motorists and pedestrians are expected to get out of the way, no matter what. This is based on the principle that, however much a hurry you are in, if someone’s life is in danger, you will step aside and patiently wait for the vehicle to get through.

Our soldiers are supposedly in Afghanistan to protect Afghanis. If that is so, then why do they so often end up protecting themselves at the cost of Afghani lives? Our entire presence in the country is represented by this anecdote."

Well Yave, your usual ignorance comes to the fore once again. Until you walk in the shoes of a soldier who's seen his friends victims of vehicle bombs you should refrain from being critical. There have been many occasions when ambulances have been used as conveyances for improvised explosive devices, so its no wonder that soldiers are wary of them. You owe an apology to the soldiers who serve their country with honor.

MSgt Jose Garcia
Camp Liberty, Iraq

Horace said...

For a man who's done absolutely nothing in the way of making the self sacrifices that our soldiers do, you are arrogantly self-righteous. I still remember you calling our soldiers murderers. You are so disgustingly judgmental for a man who isn't in command of all the facts. This is only one example of how you are are all too willing to condemn people without weighing the possibility that there were exculpatory circumstances surrounding an incident. You typically only look at one side of an issue. I suggest that you volunteer for Iraq and expose yourself to its dangers and earn the right to be a critic, but you are too cowardly to do so.

yave said...

Mr. Garcia, what you seem to be saying is that U.S. soldiers are justified in stopping any ambulance on the chance that the one they stop could might harm U.S. soldiers. This policy will result in greater safety for U.S. soldiers but greater risk for Afghanis in need of a speedy ambulance ride.

This prioritizes U.S. life over Afghani life, which is a strange way of protecting the people we are supposed to protect. Try to imagine a policeman in the U.S. who prioritized his own life over the lives of the people he was supposed to serve. He wouldn't have a job for long.

Unless you believe we are not in Afghanistan to protect Afghanis, in which case I would ask: Why are we there?

My point is not to impugn U.S. soldiers. They didn't choose to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, though their continued participation in the wars are not helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan much. My point is that we shouldn't be there, and our continued presence is harmful to the occupied people and to our soldiers.

If only soldiers could criticize wars, we would have a hell of a lot more wars. Luckily, that is not the way constitutional democracy works.

Horace, now why would I volunteer for a war I thought was a horrible mistake? You are making less sense than usual today.

Jan Petersen said...

How easily we forget the oppressive Taliban and the atrocities committed by those fanatics. And we seem to ignore that the forces in Afghanistan are supported by the UN, and that if it were not for the current protection of that body, the Taliban would be in control today. If our multinational forces pulled out tonight, Afghan would revert to chaos and the Taliban would be beating women and imposing their bizarre form of law called Sharia. To take the comment of one Canadian and a local and turn it into a plebescite on the feelings of the Afghani people is sophomoric.

MSgt Jose Garcia said...

"Mr. Garcia, what you seem to be saying is that U.S. soldiers are justified in stopping any ambulance on the chance that the one they stop could might harm U.S. soldiers. This policy will result in greater safety for U.S. soldiers but greater risk for Afghanis in need of a speedy ambulance ride."

No sir, I'm not saying that the life of soldier is worth more than the life of an Afghan citizen. I am saying that perhaps instead of making self-righteous comments from your safe armchair in the states, you'll give our soldiers the benefit of the doubt, considering that many have been the victims of IEDs and suicide bombers, and that you and your Canadian friend may not be in command of all the facts. It's easy to be a judge if you're not risking you life doing so. Well, I can't waste my time further on this, as I'm supervising a patrol tonight for God and country. Maybe I won't be shot at today, but its all in a day's work. And its Master Sergeant Garcia, not Mister, thank you.

yave said...

we seem to ignore that the forces in Afghanistan are supported by the UN, and that if it were not for the current protection of that body, the Taliban would be in control today.

So we are there to protect and serve the Afghani people. If true, we have a funny way of going about it.

If our multinational forces pulled out tonight, Afghan would revert to chaos and the Taliban would be beating women and imposing their bizarre form of law called Sharia.

You mean that bizarre form of law that currently holds sway in Saudi Arabia and a number of other U.S. allies in the region.

If Canadians and bloggers are inherently unqualified to weigh in on matters of war and peace, perhaps you'll listen to career CIA agents like Michael Scheuer (though to my knowledge, he was not a soldier, either):

"As I complete this book, U.S., British, and other coalition forces are trying to govern apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq while simultaneously fighting growing Islamist insurgencies in each -- a state of affairs our leaders call victory. In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden's only indispensable ally.

As usual, U.S. leaders are oblivious to this fact and to the dire threat America faces from bin Laden and have followed policies that are making the United States incrementally less secure. They refuse, as Nicholas Kristof brilliantly wrote in the New York Times, to learn the Trojan War's lesson, namely: "[to avoid] the intoxicating pride and overweening ignorance that sometimes clouds the minds of the strong... [and] the paramount need to listen to skeptical views." Instead of facing reality, hubris-soaked U.S. leaders, elites, and media, locked behind an impenetrable wall of political correctness and moral cowardice, act as naive and arrogant cheerleaders for the universal applicability of Western values and feckless overseas military operations omnipotently entitled Resolute Strike, Enduring Freedom, Winter Resolve, Carpathian Strike, Infinite Justice, Valiant Strike, and Vigilant Guardian. While al Qaeda-led, anti-U.S. hatred grows among Muslims, U.S. leaders boast of being able to create democracy anywhere they choose, ignoring history and, as Stanley Kurtz reminded them in Policy Review, failing to regard Hobbes's warning that nothing is more disruptive to peace within a state of nature than vainglory.... If the world is a state of nature on a grand scale, than surely a foreign policy governed by a 'vainglorious' missionizing spirit rather than a calculation of national (and civilizational) interest promises dangerous war and strife."

yave said...

Oops, forgot the link.

perhaps instead of making self-righteous comments from your safe armchair in the states, you'll give our soldiers the benefit of the doubt

No, I'll not give our soldiers or their leaders the benefit of the doubt. That is what got us into this mess in the Middle East in the first place, too much giving of the doubt. An obsequious press, a complacent citizenry, and calculated stigmatization of those who spoke out led us into unnecessary war. This isn't 1953. Critics can't be cowed into silence by intimidation and fear of not conforming.

It's easy to be a judge if you're not risking you life doing so.

Again, if soldiers alone were permitted to criticize war, we would be in a state of endless war. Maybe we are.

Well, I can't waste my time further on this, as I'm supervising a patrol tonight for God and country.

Best luck on the patrol, but I can't share your motivations since I don't believe in God and I'm starting to have my doubts about country as well.

Maybe I won't be shot at today, but its all in a day's work.

I hope you don't get shot at, and I wish you a safe and speedy return.