On March 11, 2012, a US army sergeant, without any provocation, methodically killed 16 unarmed civilians, nine of them children, in three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Some of the bodies had single, execution-style bullet wounds in the head. The villagers had barricaded themselves in their homes, blocking the doors with odd pieces of furniture in a vain attempt to protect themselves and their womenfolk from the attacker. According to reports, US soldiers, often under the influence of drink, roam the streets and nobody feels safe. Afghan women are paralysed with the all too justified fear of being raped.
First, it was the incident of the US marines’ urinating on the dead bodies of the alleged Taliban fighters. Then it was the burning of the copies of the Holy Quran that sparked massive demonstrations and killings in Kabul and elsewhere. And now the wanton killing of 16 innocent Afghans, including women and children, by a serving US soldier.
Tragically enough, he did not stop at that. When he had killed his targets, he collected the bodies, lit a match, and set them on fire. Bravo, young soldier! Your country is proud of you -the country that is dubbed as land of the free and home of the brave. What a bravado and what a nonsense.
The drone attacks on the Pak-Afghan border and the regular midnight Special Forces operations in the volatile Afghan provinces are only routine news items now, that both the media and masses take for granted. The official reaction to this incident was also a routine one. The refugee-turned-businessman-turned-puppet, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, called it as an “assassination” and “furiously” demanded an explanation from Washington. The man in the Oval House, on the other hand, phoned Karzai and expressed his “shock and sadness at the killing and wounding of Afghan civilians.” How convenient!
Initially, the name and rank of the said sergeant was kept secret due to “safety reasons”. In fact, he was “safely” flown out of Afghanistan to his home country. And why not? He is, after all, a serving US soldier. What if the somnambulate GI killed a handful of Afghan civilians? It is a war. People do get killed in a war. Yes, they do. But not like that. You cannot even call it a collateral damage. It is just one beastly act of barbarism and butchery.
Questions are raised whether it was an individual act or a teamwork. It seems a bit immaterial. One is enough, when he has got a gun and other lethal weaponry in his armour gear – and especially, when the targets are fast asleep. A death squad of the US soldiers in Afghanistan has, nonetheless, been uncovered a few months back, which was found guilty of killing at least three pedestrians.
The sergeant is said to have served thrice in the Iraq war. God knows how many “terrorists” he would have killed there in his attempt to “liberate” Iraq out of the clutches of the ruthless, Saddam Hussein, and to introduce his country’s demonic brand of democracy. They say he was drunk; that he had a row with his wife on the night; that he had domestic problems; that he was suffering from stress; and that he simply snapped. That is to say, he was a perfect example of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That must be so!
He must be having nightmares about his past. No question about his derangement and dementia either. Uncle Sam is just so good at producing such invertebrate nephews. Every time it indulges in war, it generates a fresh breed of PTSD patients – right from the Korean War in 1950 to the wars in Formosa, Vietnam, Haiti, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Panama and so on and so forth.
Overall, there seems no prospects for an immediate solution to the Afghan problem. Just the other day, the Taliban announced its withdrawal from the negotiations due to its snail-paced progress. Also, there seems a strange paradox to the Afghan conundrum.
Karzai and his coterie just cannot survive without the US help. While insofar as there is the US presence in the country, there will continue to be the Taliban resistance. That is to say, unless the US withdraws its combat forces, there won’t be any peace. One can take a cue from the Iraq war. As soon as the US withdrew its forces from the country, a palpable decrease in violence was witnessed.
In a sense, the US, which deems itself part of the solution, is more like part of the problem now. And that is only natural for a country that is harbouring pro-Muslim sentiments on paper and anti-Muslim ambitions on the ground.
As for the Pak-US relations, they are at the all-time low. The supply line is still closed. The Shamsi Airbase is evacuated. There is no US aid to our armed forces anymore. The drone attacks were stopped for a while, but they are again gaining momentum. However, if there has been some tacit understanding between the two governments, one just does not know. We also do not see the frequent visits of the US army generals and CIA top guns to our GHQ, since the retirement of Admiral Mike Mullen.
As for the Pak-Afghan relations, they are hanging in the balance as always. We have, perhaps, never had any good relations with Afghanistan during our entire history. Or if we had, it was only during the rule of the Taliban, when no one really recognised the country, except the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. There have always been rows over the border – the Durand Line – killings, crossings, the Pakhtunkhwa issue, accusations of meddling in each other’s affairs and suchlike matters.
War, strife and mutual bickering are not a solution to any problem. It does not profit anybody – not the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan or even the Taliban. Whenever there is a war, there is a tragedy – the like of which we just witnessed on March 11, when the US soldier massacred 16 innocent civilians. Either the leaders of the three countries lack imagination and are incapable of coming up with a practical solution. Or they simply don’t want to solve the problem, but only to maintain the status quo. Either way, the tragedy goes on unabated!
By Sami ur Rahman.
The Nation is Lahore-based English-language newspaper in Pakistan
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