The US government on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 without explanation dropped all war crimes charges against five men who have been held without trial at the secretive prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. As if caught in Sisyphus-like existence for an eternity, the American government created a black hole into which mostly victims of vigilante justice have been thrown. Exhibiting the traits of a traumatized person, leaders of the US government acted irrationally after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the US Pentagon. Without knowledge of the social, political and cultural realities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and neighboring states, the George Bush led American actors struck against anything that moved. The response to the religious bigotry that produced attacks in New York City, Bali, Madrid, London and so many other places in the world has been military. It is as if the United States government, and the governments of the UK, Australia, and for a time Spain have known only how to wield the big stick against what has been framed as “terrorism” because these governments are organized to fight a major land war. The problem is that the violence and bigotry offered up by Al Qaeda and Islamic students from the heartlands of Pashtunistan is not about territory. Taking territory and killing people cannot achieve a victory.
Evidence that militarism cannot defeat the likes of insurgencies and Al Qaeda is demonstrated by events in Iraq and Afghanistan. In neither place has more than seven years of American military occupation done more than incensed the civilian population and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, dependence on air power in Afghanistan is contributing to growing opposition to the military presence. Bombing “accidents” are responsible for more opposition to the United States. Even intentional bombings like the recent attack on a madras in Pakistan are a source of opposition to the United States.
Ten-years of Russian occupation during the 1980s in Afghanistan resulted in failure in large measure because the military came up against the tight cultural realities of intergenerational defenses among the Pashtun and other peoples in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US is faced now with exactly the same reality.
Presidential frontrunner Barack Obama proclaims himself in favor of transferring two divisions from the US military in Iraq to Afghanistan to shore up the weakened capacities of NATO forces fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. This is a mistake and he should not promote this policy. The military response, as I have said, is a failed policy.
Obama’s United States government must practice social, economic, cultural and counter-insurgency organizing aimed at undermining violent bigotry. Remove the military from active forward influence in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Remove the target so valued by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Work with the tribal populations to release them from the hold of violent bigotry. By so doing support for the relatively small number of fighters set against the US forces will evaporate in time. Patience and consistency is necessary…not more violence.
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