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No Koran Burning Is An Island

Posted by The Agonist on February 26th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Glenn Greenwald, spot on about the current violent protests in Afghanistan:

It’s comforting to believe that these violent protests and the obviously intense anti-American rage driving them is primarily about anger over the inadvertent burning of some religious books: that way, we can dismiss the rage as primitive and irrational and see the American targets as victims. But the Afghans themselves are making clear that this latest episode is but the trigger for — the latest symbol of — a pile of long-standing, underlying grievances about a decade-old, extremely violent foreign military presence in their country. It’s much more difficult to dismiss those grievances as the by-product of primitive religious fanaticism, so — as usual — they just get ignored.

But it’s worth noticing that the “by-product of religious fanaticism” narrative only flies, in large part, because Westerners have been thoroughly bamboozeled about Afghanistan by a constant military media push which is, to put it bluntly, a lie. If there is “momentum” towards a safer and more peaceful nation, if the Taliban are hated by all rather than seen as resisting a violent occupation, then what conclusion is left but that the natives are revolting over a mere book?

A NATO report from last month, State of the Taliban, shows just how much of a lie the tale of a safer, more secure Afghanistan is. As The NYT’s “At War” blog noted:

the Taliban assessment that they can take over much of the country contradicts sharply NATO’s insistence that the Taliban have been demoralized and their fighting capability seriously degraded by the surge, night raids and the kill or capture tactics of special operations forces.

While it is very difficult to know what the Taliban really think, it would seem that they are less discouraged than the military is willing to admit in public statements.

Every year of the occupation has seen more individual instances of violence, more civilian deaths and more US troop deaths than the preceeding one, yet the military continues to push the “momentum” tale and the Western media largely continues to stenographize it. Moreover, a large portion – possibly even a majority – of the Afghan population feel exactly as the Taliban in this report say they feel: they hate the occupation, not “our freedoms”. It’s easy to see why. Back to Glenn:

The U.S. has violently occupied their country for more than a decade. It has, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal himself explained, killed what he called an “amazing number” of innocent Afghans in checkpoint shootings. It has repeatedly — as in, over and over — killed young Afghan children in air strikes. It continues to imprison their citizens for years at Bagram and other American bases without charges of any kind and with credible reports of torture and other serious abuses. Soldiers deliberately shot Afghan civilians for fun and urinated on their corpses and displayed them as trophies.

If ISAF were honest in their rosy public assessments – if those assessments matched the ones circulating in private and those of independent analysts who say at best there’s a stalemate then the current rioting would fit into a context of resistance to an occupation at gunpoint where the burning of Korans is only the catalyst for an upsurge of frustrated protest over a whole slew of underlying insults and atrocities. Instead, because of those rose-colored tales, it is left to appear as an isolated and irrational event.

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