Tragedy in Afghanistan – But What Will We Learn?

Saturday witnessed the worst attack against American forces in Afghanistan in months.  A Taliban suicide bomber drove an explosive-loaded van into a NATO bus, killing 13 American soldiers, 3 Afghan citizens, 1 police officer, and wounding several more.

According to the Associated Press story, “The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack, as well as for another suicide bombing outside a government intelligence office in the northwest province of Kunar.”

The story continued:

“In other violence, a man wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a joint NATO-Afghan base, killing three NATO service members in Uruzgan province, an area in the restive south that is traditionally viewed as the Taliban’s stronghold.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said officials were investigating whether the shooter, who was killed in the incident, was a member of the Afghan army or a militant wearing an army uniform.”

In light of this hideous attack, Americans can expect to hear words like “vigilant,” “steadfast,” “determined,” and probably even a few “stay the course” type comments from our leaders.  Neo-cons and warmongers of every stripe may even call for more troops, increased drone attacks, or even more pressure on “terror-supporting nations” like Iran and Pakistan.

Rather than reexamining our disastrous foreign policy that exposes both American troops and foreign citizens to the dangers of violent blowback, our politicians will likely resort to what they do best – exploit the American sentiments of “patriotism” to advocate more militarism.  Who knows, we may even hear another “they attacked us because we are the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world” speech.

The deaths of these soldiers are tragic and their families sadly join the thousands of other American families who have been most horribly affected by our government’s shameful imperialism.

What makes this worse is that few Americans are likely to remember why we are in Afghanistan at all.  Sure, many know that we went into Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden and the other masterminds of the 9/11 attacks.  But, he is dead and so are they.

Bin Laden wasn’t even found in Afghanistan.  He was across the border in Pakistan and, rather than seeing this as an opportunity to remove our massive military force and end the war, the hawks saw an occasion to launch threats against Pakistan, who dared to question America’s clear violation of their national sovereignty.  We threatened them with the “reconfiguring” of foreign aid (effectively a type of sanction) and, as the people of Pakistan know, such actions can claim many lives.  Economic punishment against Iraq claimed the lives of nearly 600,000 children in the 1990s.

Pakistanis protested the U.S. threats, taking to the streets, likely fearing for their lives and those of their children, while American Congressmen portrayed them as untrustworthy ingrates and terror-supporters.  The U.S. government has promised Pakistan billions of dollars in aid for food and medicine (over $20 billion in the last decade), but threatened to cut it off in light of Pakistan’s suspected support of bin Laden, though no evidence of such support has been produced.

Just as the Iraq War went from “weapons of mass destruction” to “we have to remove Saddam Hussein” (whom we previously supported), so the war in Afghanistan has gone from “we must find Osama bin Laden” to “making the world safe for democracy.”

That cry for worldwide democracy, originating with Woodrow Wilson, has become the pretext of choice for nearly every one of America’s undeclared wars.  We claim humanitarian motives for putting foreign civilians in danger, sacrificing the lives of American troops, and destroying the economic stability of the U.S.

American intervention and militarism does nothing but lengthen the recruiting lines for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar groups.  That does not stop us.  In fact, our aggression against one nation is often used as a steppingstone for aggression against another.  We are told that providing “democracy” for Iraq will leave them vulnerable to manipulation by Iran, so we need to keep “all options on the table” in dealing with Iran (but only after framing them for a supposed assassination attempt).  Going after terrorists in Afghanistan revealed that bin Laden had moved to Pakistan.  They must have helped him, so we should go after Pakistan too, right?

When does it end?  How many more must die before the thirst for empire is quenched?  It is far past time to end the insanity that Washington passes off for foreign policy.  It is far past time to bring the troops home, not for funerals, but for family reunions.    

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