American officials are expressing hurt feelings over complaints from Afghan leaders about the deaths of civilians resulting from the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Some Afghans have gone so far as to accuse NATO of “occupying” their country these past 10 years, an observation that historian William Blum assesses in this guest essay.
By William Blum
July 1, 2011
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s criticism of U.S. and NATO forces in his country grows more angry and confrontational with each passing week. Recently, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was moved to reply to him:
“When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost — in terms of lives and treasure — hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people … they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here. … We begin to lose our inspiration to carry on.”
That certainly may apply to many of the soldiers in the field. But oh, if only American military and political leaders could really be so offended and insulted by what’s said about them and their many wars.
Eikenberry — who has served in Afghanistan a total of five years as a senior U.S. Army general and then as ambassador — warned that if Afghan leaders reach the point where they “believe that we are doing more harm than good,” then Americans may “reach a point that we feel our soldiers and civilians are being asked to sacrifice without a just cause,” and “the American people will ask for our forces to come home.”
Well, if Eikenberry is really interested, a June 8 BBC World News America/Harris Poll found that 52 percent of Americans believe that the United States should move to get its troops out of Afghanistan “now”, with only 35 percent believing that the troops should stay; while a Pew Research Center poll of mid-June showed 56 percent of Americans favor an “immediate” pullout.
“America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world,” the ambassador continued. “We are a good people.” [Washington Post, June 19, 2011]
How nice. Reminds me of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, after the 1999 78-day bombing of the helpless people of the former Yugoslavia, a war crime largely instigated by herself, when she declared: “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.” [Washington Post, October 23, 1999]
Do these grownups really believe what comes out of their mouths? Does Mr. Eikenberry actually think that “America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world”?
Sixty-six years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; 58 years after the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea; for over a century, the United States has occupied Guantanamo Bay in Cuba against the fervent wishes of the Cuban people.
And what other term shall we use to describe the American presence in Iraq for more than eight years? And Afghanistan for almost ten?
George W. Bush had no doubt: The Iraqis are “not happy they’re occupied,” he said. “I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either.” [Washington Post, April 14, 2004]
However, the current Republican leader in the House, John Boehner appears to be a true believer. “The United States has never proposed establishing a permanent base in Iraq or anywhere else,” he affirmed a few years ago. [United Press International, July 26, 2007]
If 18th century Americans could resent occupation by the British, when many of the Americans were British themselves, then how much easier to understand the resentment of Iraqis and Afghans toward foreign occupiers.
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org. This article was originally published in Blum’s Anti-Empire Report.