Tariq Ali 12 March 2012

In most colonial wars people are arrested, tortured at random and killed. Not even a façade of legality is considered necessary. The ‘lone’ American gunman who butchered innocents in Afghanistan in the early hours of Sunday morning was far from being an exception. For this is not the act of a deranged maniac killing schoolchildren in an American city. The ‘lone’ killer is a sergeant in the US army. He’s not the first and won’t be the last to kill like this.

The French did the same in Algeria, the Belgians in the Congo, the British in Kenya and Aden, the Italians in Libya, the Germans in South West Africa, the Boers in South Africa, the Israelis in Palestine, the US in Korea, Vietnam and Central America; and their surrogates have behaved similarly against their own populations throughout South America and much of Asia.

The Russian occupation of Afghanistan also witnessed ‘lone gunmen’ behaving in this fashion, but better-educated than many of their US counterparts they would write about the whys and wherefores in anguished diaries after they had been withdrawn. Rodric Braithwaite’s Afgantsy cites chapter and verse. There is no such thing as a ‘humanitarian’ war. The sooner this fact is accepted by the citizens of the occupying countries the easier it might become to mobilise support to oppose neocolonial adventures and the attendant atrocities.

It’s hardly a secret that most Afghans are opposed to the occupation of their country. Occupying soldiers are well aware of the fact. The ‘enemy’ is not hidden. It is the public. So wiping out women and children is part of the war. Helicopter gunships, bomber jets and drones are more effective killers than ‘lone’ gunmen. The situation in Afghanistan today is so dire that the occupying forces have no way of telling whether Afghans working with them are actually on their side or not. Some of the recent attacks on US and Nato soldiers have come from Afghans wearing police and military uniforms tailored by Nato. So everyone is now the enemy – even the puppet president Karzai, who knows his days are numbered though he, at least, has a few safe havens and numbered bank accounts waiting for him. For the US, the contradictions are implacable. The Afghans want them out and the war has become unwinnable.

So what is to be done? Get out now. These wars that dehumanise the ‘enemy’ also dehumanise the citizens of warmongering nations. We are made to live in a state of ignorance, but by our apathy contribute to making sure that such a state continues indefinitely. The individual gunman will soon disappear from our thoughts and we can then settle down to the routine killings that take place every day, carried out collectively on the orders of politicians that we elect.