March 13, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Ben Schreiner:
The massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by an American Army staff sergeant over the weekend was most certainly despicable. But it was not shocking. After all, such heinous crimes have occurred before (recall, for example, the Haditha massacre and the "kill team" scandal). What’s more, Afghan civilians happen to die at the hands of NATO forces on a regular basis. (With three more civilians having been killed in a NATO air strike in northeastern Afghanistan only on Friday.) The main difference in this latest incident was that the 16 Afghans slayed over the weekend were deemed murdered by NATO forces and the Western press, rather than “collateral damage.”
Moreover, despite rolling out the tired damage control narrative that posits that this was an isolated incident involving a rogue soldier, the latest tragedy was in keeping with a wider pattern of deteriorating behavior (from urinating on corpses to burning Korans) indicative of a military force overstretched by a decade of war. An overstretched force, it is becoming increasingly clear, which has finally begun to break.
Yet in the latest New York Times editorial ("Horror in Kandahar"), we find the paper largely declining to address this fundamental reality. Instead, the Times chooses to fret over whether the latest American atrocity may serve to thwart the current plans for a protracted U.S. withdrawal. As the paper writes:
Sunday’s massacre is another dangerous setback for the United States as it tries to adhere to a plan for drawing down its forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban.
But Sunday’s massacre, as awful as it was, in no way inherently inhibits the ability of U.S. forces to embark on an expedited withdrawal. In fact, if it would appear to inhibit anything, it would be the current plans for a permanent American military footprint within the country. Which, it should be rather apparent, is only a recipe for unending strife.
However, seemingly undeterred, the Times nonetheless concludes its editorial by arguing for a lasting American military presence within Afghanistan by evoking “national interests.” The paper writes:
The United States has a vital interest in ensuring Afghanistan doesn’t again become a launching pad for terrorist attacks. It has to keep moving forward with negotiations on an American presence after 2014, while continuing to review whether there are prudent ways to speed the process for withdrawal.
The irony, of course, is that American security is not threatened by a complete withdrawal, but by continued occupation. For the longer the U.S. remains in Afghanistan, the more acts of barbarism its forces are assured to commit. And in turn, the greater Afghan popular resentment is assured to become. All of which only increases the possibility for blowback against the U.S.
Thus, the only truly prudent path forward is found in an immediate and complete withdrawal of all NATO forces. This is the only hope for achieving peace. And as it just so happens, the majority of the American public now shares this very position. As a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found, 54% of Americans think the U.S. should withdrawal its forces even if the Afghan army is not adequately trained. A remarkable 60% also stated that the war was no longer worth fighting. The war, then, is lost. Choosing to delay the exact date of the inevitable American defeat can only ensure greater human carnage for all parties.
Without a doubt, the American public now sees the utter futility and horror that is the war in Afghanistan. But will the Times ever come to see the same?
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Oregon. He may be reached at [email protected]