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America The Boogeyman

Posted by The Agonist on March 14th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Veteran reporter Anand Gopal points to this passage in the New Yorker’s “Close Read” on the weekend’s murder of Afghan civilians:

“I told my son not to speak because the Americans are here,” an Afghan woman told the BBC. “They went next door and the first thing they did was shoot the dog. And then there was a muffled bang inside the room—but who could go and see?”

A mother using the word “Americans” to scare her child into silence is alone cause for reflection.

And Joshua Foust explains why this incident isn’t causing near as much blowback as burning Qurans:

The burning of the Qurans — which the US claims was accidental — was a fresh outrage to many Afghans.

While the Taliban often claims the US disrespects Islam and wants to destroy it, few Afghans had any real reason to believe that in their daily lives. The Quran burning shocked the Afghan public enough for some political opportunists to whip up protests in response.

In contrast, Sunday’s mass murder is not a new outrage for Afghanistan. While the deliberate killing of civilians is (thankfully) rare, many Afghans do not distinguish between accidental and deliberate civilian death.

…Sunday’s mass murder, in other words, is not a game-changing event. The game has already changed, and many Afghans are not surprised when the US kills a bunch of civilians.

Al-jazeera interviewed some of the survivors and uncovered a darker angle as well: one reason the victims did not resist is that they were used to the so-called “night raids” — nighttime special operations raids on housing compounds. They were so used to Americans kicking in the doors to their homes and even shooting their guns that at first the rampage didn’t seem strange.

So much for McChrystal’s 2009 statement that “The Afghan people are at the centre of our mission. In reality, they are the mission.” We’ve gone beyond being Hummvees in a china shop and become the boogeyman, used to frighten children. What a terrible legacy for so much wasted in blood and treasure. The only thing remaining which could make some small sense and honor out of the whole debacle is to learn, very definitely, not to do it again. Ever.

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