A survey done by the Pew Research Centre has concluded that about half (49%) of the American population says that the United States has failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan. Their research methodology consisted of telephone interviews of 1,754 adults where 439 interviews were held over landline phones and 1,315 over the cell phone. One of the questions asked from the respondents was “Do you think the United States’ initial decision to use military force in Afghanistan in 2001 was the right decision or the wrong decision?”. Allow me to translate it into English.
The question doesn’t mean if it was right or wrong based on morality or legality, but whether it was good or bad for America. Was it good or bad for America to use force in invading a country because an unrecognised government (Taliban) refused to hand over Bin Laden to the United States in absence of evidence of his role in orchestrating the 9/11 attacks. That was quite a civilised demand by the barbaric bearded blood-thirsty killers who allegedly hated America for its civilised culture. The civilised society chose barbaric way of not sharing any evidence and invaded the country.
The other survey question was “Overall, do you think the United States has mostly succeeded or mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan?”. What goals? Their research methodology is not flawed but rather a quite thought-out sophisticated approach of not defining the goals because the goals were never really defined in Afghanistan. Initially, as pointed out above, Afghanistan was invaded because the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden after the Bush administration refused to share any evidence. Later, the war aim was to liberate the Afghan women. At some point the aim was to stop Afghanistan from being used for planning of attacks against America. Today, the aim is to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Changing war aims is a crime under international law.
The survey questions above depict a dehumanised mentality. Afghanistan has been devastated beyond recognition. The country is in tatters both physically and ideologically. However, the deepest concern in the survey is whether the United States has succeeded or failed in achieving its (undefined and changing) goals. Two Hollywood movies come to mind; American Sniper and The Post. American Sniper revolves around the bravery and skills of Chris Kyle because he was capable of shooting people from a long distance in Iraq, earning him the nickname “Legend” for his numerous kills. And then how he deals with the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after he returns to his home in Texas. Not a single hint or mention of the grief of those whom Kyle had killed in Iraq.
The Post shows the efforts of the newspaper Washington Post to obtain damaging leaked documents from Daniel Ellsberg about how Nixon and his Defence Secretary Robert McNamara lied to the American people that America was winning the war in Vietnam. It left the entire nation shocked to realise that their president was sending young Americans in harm’s way to Vietnam where the US was actually not winning. Those legendary journalists and those stressful printing decisions scenes do not hint at the innocent Vietnamese lives lost because of the American bombing, which literally drenched the region with bombs.
It’s time to get it right, to shed the warrior instincts, to undo selfish wisdom, to realise the truth and speak it, and more importantly it’s time to value all human lives equally instead of valuing Americans above the rest. The worst part is that much of the world glee at how the Americans see the failure of their government. Even we don’t realise that we share with the Americans the chronic insensitivity toward the countless Orwell’s Unpeople.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2018.