Afghanistan Massacre Shows War Has Failed

By Matt Southworth 03-13-2012
Demonstrators carry effigy of President Obama during a protest of a US soldier's

Demonstrators carry effigy of Obama during US soldier's killing 16 civilians. By Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty.

As is increasingly evidenced by developments in Afghanistan from gloomy intelligence reports to the Quran burning to the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, it is long past time for the U.S. military to leave that country.

After weeks of tumultuous upheaval, the slaying allegedly by a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant is just the most recent incident undermining U.S. objectives to win hearts and minds. Frankly, that mission has long been lost.

We are still learning about the Staff Sergeant, a married father of two. It appears he was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan a total of four times. On one of those tours, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but was declared “fit for duty” by the U.S. Army. Afghans would certainly beg to differ. This is also more evidence that the U.S. military cannot be allowed to deploy troops with diagnosed psychological issues—such as Post Traumatic Stress or TBIs, a messaged pushed by a project called Operation Recovery.

The media has tried hard to paint this incident as an isolated deranged U.S. soldier committing murder—the “bad apple” theory. While the heinousness of the massacre is seemingly rare, the terror and rage it creates among ordinary Afghans is not. After ten years of this war and some 40 years of conflict, Afghans are endlessly affected by the suffering and violence in their country.

Yet this also alludes to something larger than just the “bad apple” theory. If I learned one lesson in Iraq, it was that violence—whether by us or those resisting our presence—only caused more violence. Moreover, the violence was accompanied by something worse: the dehumanization of the “other.” That happens on both sides. War doesn’t just rob the occupied of their humanity; it robs the occupier of theirs too. And this is why humankind cannot continue to wage senseless wars that accomplish nothing but death and destruction.

So it is this simple. War cannot bring peace because war is only violence which exacerbates all the things that undermine peace. That should now be clear as anti-Afghan war sentiment in the U.S. has reached a tipping point.

Some 60% of those recently polled believe the war is not worth fighting. Congress is listening. 88 members of the House and 24 senators recently sent letters to president Obama calling for an expedited withdrawal. The White House is also reportedly now debating the pace of the drawdown. We support H.R.780 by Barbara Lee (CA), the “Responsible Withdrawal from Afghanistan Act.”

U.S. troops must withdrawal because they are not leverage for peace and stability, but exacerbating violence and tensions. The solution—inevitably messy—to the conflict in Afghanistan (different from the U.S. war) will be political. We should not abandon Afghanistan, but U.S. troops have no role in political negotiations. Afghan self determination can only be realized in the absence of foreign troops.

I cannot say it better than Washington Post Columnist Eugene Robinson: “It’s their country, not ours. In increasingly clear language, Afghans are telling us to leave. We should listen and oblige.”

Matt Southworth is a legislative program associate in foreign policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. This post originally appeared via the FCNL blog.

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