'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Return of the Phoenix Program 

From the London Times:

The two helicopters swooped low over a cluster of mud homes, whirling in the cold night sky before landing in a wheat field on the edge of the small Afghan village.

From his home nearby, 23-year-old Najibullah Omar strained his eyes in the darkness as he made out the faint shapes of armed men pouring from the helicopters’ bellies.

A third helicopter circled menacingly in the moonless sky above the village of Karakhil in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul.

Then a loud explosion shook the ground and a plume of smoke rose from his cousin Hamidullah’s house 20 yards away. Its guest room caught fire. Omar heard a burst of gunfire before all went quiet.

The body of his cousin, a 32-year-old construction engineer who had taken a break from his job in a far-off province to visit his family, lay sprawled next to those of his wife and their seven-year-old son. Blood ran in dark pools on the mud floor of the terrace outside their door.

The wife and son had been shot in the head, each with a single bullet. The engineer had died from a shot to the chest. The precision of the killings, coupled with his failure to find any bullet casings after the raid, led Omar to believe that his cousin was murdered either by US special forces or by an intelligence agency.

The sole survivor was the couple’s younger son, aged six, whose upper torso was riddled with puncture wounds from grenade shrapnel.

For years, we have been subjected to statements all across the political spectrum that, regardless of what we think about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Pakistan, that we should all respect the bravery of our troops, and the sacrifices that they make on our behalf.

It's nonsense, propaganda on the level of the old USSR or Nazi Germany, as this article demonstrates. Our troops come from one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. They are transported around combat zones by planes and helicopters, guided by satellite communications and provided with information as to what is transpiring on the ground from surveillance drones. They are equipped with the most modern weapons and protective gear, and able to call in air strikes within minutes if they should come under attack. If wounded, they are rescued by helicopter and evacuated half way across the world to Germany for treatment within hours.

Conversely, the people subjected to their violence are among the poorest in the world. They live in villages and practice subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry. Some grow poppies for the global heroin trade, and partake of little of the outsized profits generated from this illicit activity. Most children must forego their education to assist their parents, with a few fortunate enough to become educated as professionals, like one of the victims in this attack. Even so, such a professional still lives a difficult life, with a degree of deprivation unimaginable for similarly situated people in the US and Europe. Needless to say, life spans are short and child mortality rates high. Such are the people for whom our troops must act with such bravery, such ferocity of purpose, in order to prevail.

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