Afghans to US Military: Be at Least a Little Ashamed

This is one Afghanistan newspaper’s reaction today to the story of the massacre by a US staff sergeant of 16 villagers, including 9 children, near Qandahar. It is a medley of photographs of US troops in the country. Note that the source,, in Dari Persian, is considered an “independent” news source by the US government; it is not a Taliban operation, and has usually been balanced. The headline is, “Let us be at least a little bit ashamed.”

The BBC is reporting that villagers are complaining that one of the victims was 2 years old. A woman wept, “They say they are Taliban. Are there any 2-year-old Taliban?” She said, “They are always setting dogs on us and helicopters circle at night.” The Taliban press in Afghanistan is giving the number of civilians killed as 45, and this sort of incident makes Taliban propaganda more credible to Afghans.

An Afghanistan expert asked me, “How was an armed soldier able to leave a well-defended US military base at 3 in the morning without being challenged?” “There is more,” he said darkly, “to this than meets the eye.” Another troubling question is whether it was wise to send this man on 3 Iraq rotations and one Afghan one. Wouldn’t that warp a person, that intensity of years-long combat?

The fairness or unfairness of the contextless collage below is irrelevant to its emotional impact on Afghans whose sense of national sovereignty is being injured by the more-than-a-decade US occupation of their country. Going into homes where there are unveiled women, and exposing them to the gaze of 18 year old strange American men, is always going to anger Afghans. I’ve had US government people almost shout at me that such considerations cannot be allowed to come into play when you are doing counter-terrorism, that the chief thing is to find the weapons caches. But this kind of thing is why the Iraqi parliament voted the US troops right out of their country as soon as they could, and if the Afghan parliament had any real power, it would, too (some parliamentarians have already called for a jihad against the US over the Qur’an burning fiasco).

The Qur’an-burning scandal and this soldier going berserk are in many ways tangential to the Afghanistan War, but this does not mean they are unimportant. In the history of anti-colonial struggles (which is how the anti-US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan see the war), almost accidental minor incidents frequently became rallying cry. The Dinshaway incident in Egypt in 1906 is a famous example. Some 13 years later there were hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in the streets demanding a British departure, which was achieved in 1922.

The US is hoping to be mostly out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013. But there is a plan for special forces to remain in the long term. The Peshawar-based Frontier Post calls this plan a “wild goose chase” for the US, and says it almost certainly doomed to failure.

Here is a mirror of the newspaper page:

کمی خجالت بکشیم !


تاریخ انتشار:  
۲۲:۰۰    ۱۳۹۰/۱۲/۲۱

کد خبر:


نسخه چاپی

کمی خجالت بکشیم !


34 Responses

  1. A terrible tragedy…the longest war in American history and still no end in sight.

    • Actually, the administration announced 2014 as the end of the war two and a half years ago, and recently said that the date might be moved up to next year.

      This isn’t “the longest war in American history” because the current administration is ramping down gradually instead of quickly. It’s the longest war in American history because we spent the seven years after Tora Bora lingering around with no real purpose or exit strategy.

  2. The really striking thing is how perfectly acceptable in American eyes for all this to be happening, American eyes that would look no more favorably upon Chinese occupiers behaving thus i their own neighborhoods. Americans really believe that there is a whole different normal for Americans and the rest of the world. The same Americans who would be transported with outrage at any foreign soldier even stepping into this country with a gun is indignant at others that kill American imperial troops in their own countries for terrorizing and murdering women and little kids in their own homes. There is the American master race and there is the untermenschen, and world view is so accepted that people don’t even notice that they think that way. Our very sanity requires that this empire should come to an end, hopefully without first nuking the world.

    • For the last ten years when innocent Afghan or families in Pakistan have been killed, they are usually referred to as “Collateral damage,” as if they were farm animals.

      This latest mass murder will not bode well for our forces, Which makes me want to lash out at Bush/Cheney and the neocons who got us into this mess and yell…Are you happy now! Is this the results of your Project for a New American Century?

      • “Collateral damage”? That is SO 1970s. These days, they call it “bugsplat.” Seriously.

    • The really striking thing is how perfectly acceptable in American eyes for all this to be happening


      Every media source in the country is covering this as a major world event and talking about the need to get out of Afghanistan.

  3. Reminiscent of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. People couldn’t ignore that.This incident is dreadful in that it shows the total degradation of war – on the Americans too.

  4. I am A LOT ashamed.

    Of course, there is so much complicity and corruption on the Afghan side, that there’s plenty of shame to go around.

    This occupation and ludicrous project of state-building has been at least as much of a fiasco as the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, but Obama owns the Afghanistan War, in all its shamefulness, as much as the Neo-cons who preceded him.

    Time to forget about the hope and just make the change. End it. Go home.

  5. As was stated in the post, you don’t just walk out alone from your base at 3am with a weapon and ammo and nobody at the no doubt heavily secured gate notices.

    • I don’t understand why this question isn’t being discussed more. The base must be secure. It’s nearly unimaginable that they would let a person go out alone, for any reason.

      The truth could be even worse than the current story.

      • Yes, the truth might be worse than the current story, but we have to get at the truth first. I’m reminded of 9-11, and people asking how “so much time” could have passed between the Tower hits without jets being scrambled or people being alerted, etc. Well, careful second-by-second analysis showed how it happened, and how it *could* happen absent any sort of government conspiracy.

        That this soldier apparently went out armed and alone would be alarming under any circumstance, and in this case it turned out to be catastrophic. But it’s not unimaginable. Who could imagine that a trusted CIA resource would be invited into a secure facility without being scanned or searched, only to blow himself and a half-dozen CIA operatives up? Who could imagine that a well-known former NFL player could be killed by friendly fire and it would take many long months before anyone could force out the sad, confounding facts?

        This is why we have to demand that the investigation be done thoroughly, with oversight. Meanwhile there must be wounded civilians to care for and families for whom the only material compensation we can offer is financial. And yes, I care deeply. This is horrifying.

  6. We seem to have got to the point where we are there because we are there because we are there!!

    Obama says he wanted to treat this war as the good war, as opposed to the Iraq war so he could not be accused of being weak, it was all to do with positioning in DC not facts in Khandahar. The Brits took on Helmand as a way of hiding the fact they were running away in failure from Basra.

    We need to get out as quickly as we reasonably can, and the idea that you can both have a fair election to replace Karzai in 2014 and have an agreement that US Special Forces can have free run of the South going forward is nuts.

    • Obama says he wanted to treat this war as the good war, as opposed to the Iraq war so he could not be accused of being weak

      Obama said this, where?

  7. Few days back there was a discussion in which someone pointed out the “real problem”.

    Comparing the british occupation of all these areas (india, afghanistan & pakistan) back in the nineteenth century, what transpired is the efforts British done on understanding the “people” of an area. Their gazetteers are still the best reference about an area.

    What Americans seem to know is just one language, the “gun”!

    Before their next adventure, they please take just a 10 day training from someone like prof Cole!

  8. According to a Reuters article, there were more soldiers involved, not just one, I don’t know why it doesn’t appear anywhere else. The article says: “There were conflicting reports of how many shooters were involved, with U.S. officials asserting that a lone soldier was responsible, in contrast to witnesses’ accounts that several U.S. soldiers were present.” …”Neighbors and relatives of the dead said they had seen a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at about 2 a.m., enter homes and open fire.”
    Anyone has more on this?
    Here is the link: link to

    • It’s unclear. News reports are differing. Wait a few days, and the truth will be filtered out.

      • “Wait a few days, and the truth will be filtered out.”

        Which way was that meant?

        A couple of “news cycles,” and this “story,” this little discrete shot of horror, will all go out in the rinse water from the (white)wash?

        • The whitewash starting is the Taliban has killed more Afghan people than Americans going crazy. It is not a good argument and I personally hope this spin is dropped soon.

  9. I find Angie Pedley’s My Lai comment significant. Afghanistan now reminds me of Vietnam. This is not good.

    • Another reminder of Vietnam, this time in the place I call “Notagainistan.” As to the things “we” did in Vietnam, review the tender mercies and distant echoes of the Phoenix Program:

      link to

      I, and I’m sure many other ex-GIs, thank all who have made recurrence of recurring nightmares possible, again and again and again, with each new re-proof of the stupidity and venality of the whole USS Enterprise we call “war.”

  10. The sadness is that the US is destroying any sense of morality, purpose or sensibility in our military by repeated missions, demonizing the enemy to encourage guilt-free killing, and lowering the standards of screening people for recruitment and enlistment. This is OUR fault and we need to look deeply at who we are and what we are doing. Not that I have much hope it will occur.

    If this had occurred in the US, the person(s) would immediately be locked up and brought to trial facing either the death penalty (depending on the state) or life imprisonment. Do you have any faith this will be the fate of the soldier(s) responsible for this act? I don’t.

  11. Earlier reports talked of a group of drunk soldiers. Juan, please stay on this story, including a review of the local press!

  12. All Yanks need to go home and put their own house in order. So much needs to be done in the USA-for example, learn a bit of history, understanding, science eg climate change, peace studies, how to get along with others rather than invade and murder them. No wonder the USA and Israel are such pals; the same mentality of “We cannot be wrong; we do anything we like”.

  13. Prof. Cole, a good enough piece, except I don’t get what you mean when you say that incidents like the Quran burning and this shooting rampage are “tangential.” For the Afghans this IS the war.

  14. With every massacre or YouTube footage their has been A Group Of Soldiers, it’s hard to believe that 1 guy did this by himself, I thought the u.s. Was negotiating to give Afghanistan back to the Taliban? Recently I’ve just been hearing both sides demonize each other…

  15. After all this insanity I just watched some retired military types telling the uninformed American public (on MSNBC) that the best thing we could do is get out of Afghanistan, and… Attack Iran and Pakistan! Then we will “win” for sure! Win what? The pathology of these people runs so deep, I fear all is lost.

  16. The reality of the human race is that every person operates, in every activity, from a particular context: she has a specific map she follows that determines what goal she pursues, what actions she takes, and what aspects on which she focuses. Actually every person has two contexts for each activity: the real one, and the one he consciously assumes he follows (his preferred one).

    When your real context is self-centered, and repeatedly lies to others to keep your self-centeredness hidden; which I insist is the real context of every person promoting or involved in starting or continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; (and let us not forget every single action in the “war of terror”); you have no alternative but to become more and more bizarre and perverse in your personality. Such happenings as the current one are bound to occur more and more, and will probably reach the point where the desire to get out from the Afghanis and the US public will become deafening, and a withdrawal will occur. Unfortunately it will probably take longer than a few months, so we won’t observe the poetic justice of Obama resigned in disgrace. Because once he gets elected there is no way he has sufficient honor to take himself out of politics.

    There was nothing more perverse and deceitful than his little propaganda exercise the other day telling us how seriously he takes his war decisions.

  17. Looking over the photos from the Afghanpaper above:

    For me, the most striking are the sixth from the bottom, and the last. A little kid in pure white “tribal” dress, standing with that kind of universal, shoulders-back, hands-on-hips pose that looks (absent facial cues) like a “What the hell do you idiots want?” to the tough-heavily-armed-but-look-so-confused GIs. And a “troop,” apparently in one of the Commonwealth Forces from the insignia, doing what, again? Helping, laughing out loud, with the poppy harvest, as a way of building solidarity with the people of Kandahar?

    Amazing what $8 trillion buys, these days…

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