Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"The Afghans are sick of our armies killing their people"

You might want to have a look at this article by Leo Docherty, who served in the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan before resigning. (He's got another one here). It's not an anti-imperialist piece, but it is a story of disillusionment and of Docherty's encounter with the massive displacement and killings resulting from occupation violence. At least some of the deaths are being caused by a secret air war, rather similar to the one being inflicted on Iraq. Until a Lancet-style cluster survey is taken of deaths in Afghanistan, we will - of course - have only gross underestimations of the deaths. Yet, given a similar number of air strikes in the two countries, here is what we know. In Iraq, between 50 and 100 Iraqis die as a result of air strikes every day. Every airstrike kills, on average, one Iraqi, and wounds three more. If the same logic applies in Afghanistan, then the death rate is much greater than the occasional reports of clustered deaths in the dozens would give us to believe.

Interestingly, among the many barmy things Blair has cooed in his swan song, this has to be the most pathetic: "The mistake was not understanding the fundamentally rooted nature of this global movement that we face and that actually in a situation – whether Iraq or Afghanistan – where you are trying to bring about a different form of government, these people will try to stop us". This is a predictable ruse in many ways, and Blair has to acknowledge the reality that Afghanistan is going the same way as Iraq. Yet it's also so miserable, so abject in its refusal of responsibility, that it makes the phrase "a new low" seem entirely inadequate. Here is a man who had the moxy to start these wars, who must have heard some decent advice about the structure of those societies, and who surely heard a little bit about the history of occupations. He has probably been handed innumerable intelligence reports advising him of the reality that tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis and Afghans are queuing up to take shots at occupying soldiers or assist someone else in doing so. He certainly knows about the human cost of the war in Iraq, because the MoD's top experts will have apprised him. And he relies on this conspiracy theory, this cheap yellow press tat about Al Qaeda manipulating everything. All because he can't take responsibility for the predictable results of his decisions. What a wretched figure he finally cuts.