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24 February 2012
NOT SO FRIENDLY FIRE IN AFGHANISTAN
A soldier from the Afghan army, which is supposed to be fighting on the same side as the western occupation forces, shot dead two US military personnel in Afghanistan yesterday 23 February 2012.
The killing is presumed to be in retaliation for the burning – allegedly by mistake – of copies of the Koran a few days earlier by American soldiers at the US airbase at Bagram.
Violent protest has been raging in Afghanistan for four days now since the desecration of Islam’s holiest book.
Twenty-three people have been killed, including 12 today 24 February, and dozens injured, most of them Afghans, as security forces sought to restore calm.
Today, the bloodiest day of the protests so far, hundreds of Afghans marched towards the palace of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, while on the other side of the capital protesters hoisted the white flag of the Taliban. Chanting “Death to America!” and “Long live Islam!” protesters also threw rocks at police in Kabul, while Afghan army helicopters circled above.
Yesterday demonstrators burned cars outside a Norwegian base in the north of the country, while in Kapisa province north-east of Kabul a French compound was attacked.
In Jalalabad protesters burned an effigy of Obama and oil tankers were set on fire.
One protester, 18-year-old Ajmal, told Reuters: “When the Americans insult us to this degree, we will join the insurgents.”
According to the BBC report on 22 February, the US embassy in Kabul was on lockdown with all travel suspended.
US President Barack Obama has sent a letter of apology to President Karzai.
Kabul resident Mohammad Naseer Malikzai told the BBC: “The American apology is useless.”
The BBC’s Andrew North, in Kabul, said that after previous incidents, many Afghans find it hard to understand how US forces could have allowed the Koran to be burned. Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.
Only ten months ago, in April 2011, the news that US pastor Terry Jones had burned a copy Koran in Florida sparked protests that lasted several days. Seven foreign UN workers were killed and 13 Afghans.
The latest US gaffe comes only weeks after uproar followed the publication of a video showing four US marines pissing on a group of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. At least one of the dead fighters is covered in blood. A man’s voice is heard on the video saying: “Have a great day, buddy.”
Meanwhile, a report by Emma Graham-Harrison in today’s Guardian newspaper, says that about half a million Afghans have fled their homes because of violence.
According to her report, conflict is spreading even to once relatively peaceful parts of Afghanistan and UN figures show that last year UN more than 3,000 civilians died across the country.
“We left because of war, and the bombardment from American planes,” said Wakhil Khoja Muhammad, who three years ago abandoned his home in southern Sangin, one of the most fought-over districts in the country, for a makeshift camp in Kabul.
Afghanistan is occupied by the International Security Assistance Force, a United Nations-mandated military alliance led by the US and including troops from up to 46 countries, including the United Kingdom. The occupation and accompanying war has now lasted for over 10 years. The US alone is thought to have about 90,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, including 20,000 marines. The foreign troops have been fighting al-Qaida, the Taliban and other native opponents of foreign military occupation.
Time to go home, guys.
You would think that after more than 10 years in Afghanistan – and nearly nine in Iraq – the US occupation forces would have discarded their initial preconception that the Muslim world was “all towel-heads and sand” and have somehow cottoned on to the fact that Kabul was not, after all, just a poorer version of Columbus, Ohio.
Cultural sensitivity has never been a major priority for military occupation forces anywhere and it seems that the US in particular just doesn’t get it.
To its cost, one might add.
Following the Koran burning incident, the top US officer in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has apparently said that all foreign troops there will be trained within the next two weeks on how to identify, store and handle religious material.
Too little, too late. The horse has bolted and they are proposing to close the stable door.
Tough luck, dudes.
You lost Iraq and now Afghanistan is fast slipping away.
Time to check out and head for the hills.
The Rockies, we mean, not the Hindu Kush.
Unbelievably, Washington’s principal concern is said to be the fear that the latest incident could damage its efforts to cut a deal with Kabul to keep “some” US troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled retreat in 2014.
Yes, that’s right. They actually want to stay on.
The imperial mindset is such that they are incapable of believing that the long-suffering peoples of the countries they occupy just can’t wait to see the back of them.
The US Empire has military bases in more than 150 countries. It needs them to maintain its military supremacy and suppress any threats to its global dominance.
Which is why the Yankees never want to go home.
IRAQ CONVULSED BY VIOLENCE
Meanwhile, not far away in Iraq, at least 55 people were killed across the country yesterday 23 February in attacks mostly aimed at security forces. According to a report by Associated Press, the apparently co-ordinated bombings and shootings occurred over a few hours in Baghdad, where most of the deaths occurred, and in 11 other cities. Government offices and restaurants were hit and there was a blast near a primary school. At least 225 people were wounded. Iraq’s interior ministry blamed the violence on al-Qaida.
Readers of Antigone1984 might like to reconsider this extract from our post “Lessons from Mencius for Warring States” published on 1 January 2012:
The Iraq War has ended after nearly nine years – the length of the Trojan War – with the US army retreating ignominiously to Kuwait, its request to continue to use Iraq as a base for further military operations being rejected by the very puppet dictatorship it put in place. The US leaves behind an Iraq torn apart by sectarian and resource-linked strife and under the sway of an Iran that is currently Washington’s public enemy number one. The war saw 4500 US soldiers killed and 32 000 wounded. Up to 600 000 Iraqis died, while an estimated 3.5 million Iraqis were displaced. Highlights of the conflict included the alleged war crimes committed at the siege of Fallujah in November 2004, the US torture factory at Abu Ghraib, the dehumanization of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, alleged British torture in Basra, etc.
The war in Iraq confirmed widespread predictions that it would be a replay of the 1964-75 Vietnam War (the US massacre of civilians at My Lai, the carpet bombing of Hué, etc). The Americans, like the Bourbons, had learned nothing.
On 15 December 2011, at a departure ceremony in Baghdad, the US furled its flag. According to the Guardian newspaper (16 December), “The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the president, Jalal Talabani, did not turn up to the ceremony, with uniformed US soldiers belatedly moved into seats carrying the two Iraqi leaders’ names.” It was the ultimate humiliation for a nation which had spent an estimated one trillion dollars on the war. At a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 14 December 2011, US President Barack Obama told a military audience that the country they were now leaving represented “an extraordinary achievement” and said that “everything that American troops have done in Iraq – all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding and the building and the training and the partnering, all of it has landed to this moment of success”, adding that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” (Guardian, 15 December). The next day, 15 December, at the US leaving ceremony in Baghdad, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told the departing soldiers: “You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside.”
A few days later Iraqi vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi fled from Baghdad to semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan after Prime Minister al-Maliki had branded him a terrorist. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was warned by al-Maliki to stay away from the Iraqi Parliament. Finally, on 22 December 16 bombs exploded in Baghdad. By the end of the day, 63 people had been killed and 185 injured (Guardian, 23 December).
This was the “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that America was leaving after nearly nine years of war.