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OP-ED From David Swanson: Kandahar ‘killing-spree’ militarism: A call for U.S. and Afghan citizens to question the U.S./Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement
Tragedies like the Kandahar killing spree which massacred 16 Afghan civilians in their sleep ( including 6 children and 3 women ) are tragedies repeated in any war, including the U.S. war in Afghanistan. This failed military strategy that is designed for U.S. power and economic interests is being sold to the U.S. electorate through the mainstream media doublespeak of ‘withdrawal’ and ‘negotiations’, but is quietly being pursued in what President Obama and President Karzai called ’progress’ towards the signing of the U.S Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement. The Agreement will entrench U.S. military presence in Afghanistan till 2024 and beyond and is based on the same militarism that has resulted in the pathologicalurinating on Afghan corpses by U.S. soldiers, the morbid keeping of severed finger-trophies by the Kill Team, the accidental burning of the Quran and many other ‘unforgiveable’ tragedies.
The U.S./Afghanistan/Pakistan military strategy has failed beyond human repair, and should not be continued under the guise of the U.S./Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. It wastes U.S. tax payer money only to fuel anti-U.S. sentiments which worsen both U.S. and Afghan security.
"These killings only serve to reinforce the mind-set that the whole war is broken and that there's little we can do about it beyond trying to cut our losses and leave," said Joshua Foust, a security expert with the American Security Project.
In Afghanistan, this military strategy has caused the death of more than 3000 civilians in 2011 alone and, in Pakistan, it has cost the lives of 40,000 civilians; would U.S. citizens have been able to tolerate the equivalent of having September 11’s every year for 10 years?
This war has understandably caused anger, post-death traumatic stress, grief and vengeful feelings among Afghans, Pakistanis, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other opponents of U.S. foreign policy, as well as tit-for-tat, commensurate feelings among U.S. and international soldiers.
Wars escalate ‘terror’ acts.
These sentiments boiling in the quagmire of Afghan corruption, poverty, unemployment and a dire humanitarian situation ( Afghanistan is the worst place on earth for mothers and children, with children dying from basic challenges like chronic malnutrition and the winter cold) will unfortunately erupt into more ‘terrorist’ responses in retaliation for losing loved ones.
Najeeb Azizi, a Kabul-based Afghan analyst, told Al Jazeera that the Afghan people are getting a very bad message, “ if the US military remains in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and their attitude and behaviour remains the same - of killing innocent civilians - what will be the consequences, and how will the Afghan people respond to it?"
Reuters reported a Kandahar shop owner Haji Najiq saying , "We have benefited little from the foreign troops here but lost everything - our lives, dignity and our country to them. The explanation or apologies will not bring back the dead. It is better for them to leave us alone and let us live in peace.""The Americans said they will leave in 2014. They should leave now so we can live in peace," said Mohammad Fahim, 19, a university student.
It is interesting to note that a December 2009 survey conducted by a private U.S. contractor about Kandahar military offensives revealed that 94 percent of Kandaharis surveyed supported negotiating with the Taliban over military confrontationand that 1000 to 2000 Kandahari elders had told President Karzai in a meeting on April 4th 2010 that they were not happy with General McChrystal’s plans for the Kandahar military offensive. Against all democratic principles, the people’s requests for peace negotiations instead of a massive military offensive were rejected.
On the ground in Kabul, we sense much anger and sorrow among ordinary Afghans in the street, just as we sensed in travelling to meet youth from Parwan and Kapisa. In Kapisa, 8 Afghan shepherd boys were killed by a NATO airstrike. Three more civilians were killed in a NATO air raid the day before our visit.
Opposed to the mainstream media’s portrayal of violent, Afghan ‘terrorists’, the 30 million Afghan populace is showing remarkable restraint, as has been called for by the Afghan Interior Ministry.
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers call for U.S. and Afghan citizens to be calm, non-violent, brave and kind to one another, as the world discusses how to end the Afghan war.
Global citizens ought to focus on the root problems of severe economic inequalities and the 1%-driven corruption that Afghanistan and the world faces, and reason with the Obama/Karzai administration and other Powers not to waste tax-payers’ ‘blood and treasure’ on wars that will never be won, on wars that are certain to see a repetition of Kandahar-type killing sprees.
Walk a mile with loaded weapons.
Will I be killed?
Enter Afghan homes.
See sleeping Afghan children, women and men.
Set the dead on fire…
In particular, the Kandahar killing spree is a call to debate the US Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement and its basis of war against terrorism.
It is a call to question the lazy global presumption that military strategies are necessary for conflict resolution and defense, and therefore for peace.
Thankfully, Egyptians have questioned this presumption by rejecting military rule.
In late November 2011, ordinary Egyptians re-amassed in Tahrir Square. "The people want the fall of the marshal," protesters chanted, referring to General Tantawi. Banners read : "This land belongs to Egyptians. It is not for sale and does not need any guardians." And, "All Egyptians demand an Egypt run by civilians." They do not think that the military can bring them the freedom they have wanted for 40 years.
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, like Egyptians and people ‘Protester’ movementsacross the world today, believe that military strategies, like that of the U.S. Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, cannot address the primary challenges Afghans themselves have identified: corruption and poverty (in the context of the 1% versus 99% socioeconomic inequalities).
Of parallel importance, while Iraqis also share the same problems of corruption etc as Afghans, the Iraqi parliament, with ground pressure from Iraqi public anger over the U.S. occupation, rejected the U.S. government’s conditional proposal to extend the U.S./ Iraq Status of Forces Agreement ( SOFA ) beyond 2011. The Iraqis refused to compromise on the conditional demand of U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, that U.S. military trainers should enjoy immunity in Iraqi courts.
But learning from their failure to clinch the Iraqi SOFA, the U.S. government has separated the two Afghan demands from the Strategic Partnership Agreement, maneuvering to achieve their overarching aim of maintaining a long term military presence in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has played along with the U.S. government despite their apparently adamant demands for sovereignty and a separate U.S. - Afghanistan agreement for the transfer of detention facilities has now been signed.
Also, whereas the Iraqi SOFA was put to the Iraqi Parliament, it is not clear if the Strategic Partnership Agreement will be finalized by the Afghan Parliament, as the National Security Advisor to President Karzai had announced.
The Afghan Parliament has condemned the ‘inhumane’ Kandahar killings, but their demand for a public trial has been rejected by the Pentagon. To appease Afghan public anger, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already pre-condemned the accused soldier to possible execution if convicted, regardless of the soldier’s history of three previous tours of duty in Iraq which could possibly have wrecked him enough not to have been deployed in Afghanistan anyway.
So why would Afghans want to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement? Why didn’t the Iraqis want to sign theirs?
Is a long-term foreign military presence and strategy in Afghanistan helpful for U.S., Afghan or global security?
Counter-intuitively but quite clearly, as we had described in our previous article on the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the reverse is true. If the agreement is signed, it will be detrimental to Afghan, regional and global security as many players have already announced their opposition, includingMullah Omar of the Taliban who opposes long term bases in Afghanistan , Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hizb-e-Islami who said that the establishment of permanent US bases in Afghanistan would mean the war never ends , the rising Pakistan political star Imran Khan who said that there will be no peace as long as the U.S. is in Afghanistan , and the Shanghai Co-operation Organization comprising Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries who called for an 'independent, neutral' Afghanistan (read: free of foreign occupation).
Iran’s opposition merits separate mention. The Iranian Foreign Minister said that legalizing foreign bases would run counter to Afghanistan’s and the international community’s position which focusses on peaceful solutions and that continued U.S. military presence would cause radicalism and terrorism to continue in the region.
U.S. citizens should be aware that while the mainstream media harp on U.S. troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, there will not be a complete withdrawal. The Obama administration plans to keep up to 20,000 mainly Special Ops troops in Afghanistan with the signing of the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. U.S. citizens should realize that this agreement will be sealed with at least 4.1 billion U.S. dollars of their tax money annually. Importantly, the agreement is against the interests of U.S. national security for all the opposition it has already elicited and may very well inspire another September 11th tragedy in the U.S. or elsewhere; one of the reasons Osama Bin Laden gave for September 11th was the presence of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia.
President Obama should heed the wishes of U.S. citizens, 60% of whom correctly believe that the war is not worth its cost in life and expense, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll.
For Afghans, it will compromise their sovereignty, a sovereignty which the Iraqi parliament preserved in rejecting the parallel US/Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. It will create for Afghans the chronic un-happiness that the Japanese have had with the U.S. military base in Okinawa or others have had over the more than 700 U.S. military bases in the world.
The U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement is the same military strategy that has led to the Kandahar killing spree and that will lead many more Afghan mothers to grieve for years to come.
"Even if the Taliban return to power our elders can work things out with them. The Americans are disrespectful. The Americans are not here to assist us they are here to kill us," said Najibullah, 33, a house painter in Kabul, ” I hope there is no long-term partnership between our countries."
“This killing of civilians is a clear sign that the war is against the people of Afghanistan,” said Haji Azim, a Kandahar resident. “If there are terrorists and Taliban in Afghanistan, then they have been created by the Americans.”
This Afghan mother is questioning the global war against terrorism, asking us who the Talib/terrorist is, her 2 year old sleeping child or the U.S. military whose soldier killed her child along with 15 others.
We the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers join her in grieving and questioning. We call for all to stop killing, to be calm, non-violent, brave and kind to one another, as we discuss how to end the Afghan war. We prefer the decisions of our Egyptian and Iraqi friends, that is, we wish for non-military, diplomatic strategies, not military strategies that have destroyed our land over the past 4 decades. We believe that nonviolent international relations are what all of humanity yearns for, and we look for a world in which violent acts like the Kandahar killing spree are resolved in peaceful ways.
For Afghan mothers at least, we should question the military strategy that will be perpetuated in the U.S./ Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement.
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David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio