American Refugees in Mexico?
Imagine that the United States had experienced an occupation by a foreign military force. Imagine millions or even tens of millions of American civilians dead or wounded as a result of an invasion and resulting civil strife.
Imagine a country in which your door might be kicked down in the dead of night by heavily-armed, foreign young men, in strange uniforms, helmets and imposing body armor, yelling things in a language you don’t understand. Imagine them rifling through your drawers, upending your furniture, holding you at gunpoint, roughing up your husband or son or brother, and marching him off in the middle of the night. Imagine, as well, a country in which those foreigners kill American “insurgents” and then routinely strip them naked; in which those occupying troops sometimes urinate on American bodies (and shoot videos of it); or take trophy photos of their “kills”; or mutilate them; or pose with the body parts of dead Americans; or from time to time — for reasons again beyond your comprehension — rape or murder your friends and neighbors.
Imagine, for a moment, violence so extreme that you and literally millions like you have to flee your hometowns for squalid refugee camps or expanding slums ringing the nearest cities. Imagine trading your home for a new one without heat or electricity, possibly made of refuse with a corrugated metal roof that roars when it rains. Then imagine living there for months, if not years.
Imagine things getting so bad that you decide to trek across the Mexican border to live an uncertain life, forever wondering if your new violence- and poverty-wracked host nation will turn you out or if you’ll ever be able to return to your home in the U.S. Imagine living with these realities day after day for up to decade.
—- from Nick Turse, “A War Victim’s Question Only You Can Answer” at TomDispatch
For more than a decade, pundits, historians, generals, and the chattering classes have argued about how the “Vietnam analogy” applied to Iraq and Afghanistan — and yet for all the ink (and blood) spilled, they managed to miss the one unfailing parallel between America’s wars in all three places: civilian suffering. For all the dissimilarities, botched analogies, and tortured comparisons, there has been one connecting thread in Washington’s foreign wars of the last half century that Americans have seldom found of the slightest interest: misery for local nationals. Civilian suffering is, in fact, the defining characteristic of modern war in general, even if only rarely discussed in the halls of power or the mainstream media.
In my latest TomDispatch article, I offer a set of portraits of war victims along with some staggering statistics about the levels of wartime civilian suffering in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Read the full piece here.
Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade.
But there is a conflict between the ideal and the political reality. Mr. Obama has yet to decide how fast he will withdraw the remaining troops, and the longer he delays, the more he enables military commanders who inevitably want to keep the maximum number of troops in Afghanistan for the maximum amount of time.
The worsening conflict trends over the last five years indicate that civilians will continue to suffer because of armed violence and that the humanitarian situation will deteriorate
When America faced utter destruction in Vietnam, they came up with the formula ‘declare victory and run’ and want to utilize the formula of ‘transfer security and run’ here in Afghanistan
An Afghan child carries winter relief supply during a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) distribution in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 27, 2012.
That same day, according to the New York Times, a 3-year-old boy named Janan, who lived in Kabul’s refuge camps, fell ill due to exposure. By the next day, he was dead. “He became the first known victim to freeze to death this winter in the mud and tarpaulin warrens of Kabul’s 44 refugee camps, where more than 100 children died of cold last winter.”
The New York Times reports that the U.S Army will seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt.
, who is accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan. “Sergeant Bales’s court-martial will consider 16 counts of premeditated murder, six counts of attempted murder and seven counts of assault, among other charges, but no trial date was set.”
(For the full story, see: Army Seeks Death Penalty for Robert Bales - NYTimes.com)
The latest suspected “insider” attack has brought the U.S. military death toll in Afghanistan to 2,000, according to a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force. For more, see this report by the BBC.
When it comes to the disintegrating American position in Afghanistan, almost 11 years after victory was declared and the Bush administration decided to occupy the country rather than go home, the news is grim. The whole mission on which the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops is ostensibly based — to train the Afghans to stand up and fight for their country — has essentially been put on hold. That’s hardly surprising, since Washington’s Afghan allies are now regularly standing up and, with the weapons and training U.S. mentors have given them, blowing those mentors away.
How Many U.S. Bases in Afghanistan?
There were 505 U.S. bases in Iraq, from tiny outposts to mega-establishments, but how many are there in Afghanistan? 400? 450? 550? 1500?! The situation is confused and confusing, but I attempt to sort it out in my latest TomDispatch article: “Afghanistan’s Base Bonanza.
Afghanistan may turn out to be one of the great misbegotten ‘stimulus packages’ of the modern era and whatever the eventual outcome of the years-long base-building boom, the results will endure and become part of America’s Afghan legacy. What that will ultimately mean in terms of blood, treasure, and possibly blowback remains to be seen.
Read the article here
Images courtesy of DoD