A Citizen’s Apology To Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai 2002Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Dilkoshah Palace, a.k.a The ARG
Kabul

Dear President Karzai,

I am very, very sorry that my government won’t say how sorry we should be for the way Afghan people have died and been maimed and, otherwise poorly treated, by American soldiers, who, in too many cases, are imbued with an officially encouraged macho culture and sense of superiority enabled by having the guns and power to push people around.

That is even as we are supposedly in your country to defend and protect your emerging “democracy” from the bearded Taliban meanies who are violent extremists, or at least play them in this psycho-drama we call our “strategic partnership.” (Recall: we came to fight Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, the enemy no one mentions anymore!)

I am sorry that it’s so hard for American officials to see what others do see: that we, too, are viewed as violent extremists, what with our unrestrained use of drones and other killing machines.

And, yes, I am more than sorry for the US soldiers who have gone berserk in your country and slaughtered so many Afghans. They too are stressed-out victims of a war that lost its purpose years ago. No wonder, one in five vets are plagued by post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The sentence for one of “our” killers in uniform was far less than the one meted out to the whistleblower now known as Chelsea Manning who warned us about what was being done in our name.

I am sorry that decision-makers are in denial about why they should be sorry.

Also, I am so sorry that our own government—no doubt, at your panicked, if covert, pleading, moved to make America’s longest war even longer.

But now, as if a light bulb went off in the heavily guarded palace of yours with no less than seven rings of security, you are having second thoughts despite the bullying by the Administration.

Reports anti-war activist David Swanson:

“Here is his list of concerns. He’d like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people’s doors at night.  He’d like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations.  He’d like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo.  And he’d like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.  Whatever we think of Karzai’s legacy — my own appraisal is unprintable — these are perfectly reasonable demands.”

But, not reasonable in Obama’s Washington. What they don’t realize that their policy has consequence if (a) the deal falls apart or (b) if it doesn’t fall apart.

The Daily Beast reports the Taliban is prepared to escalate their war on the war:

“Without the American presence there would have been hope for a negotiated solution but not anymore,” said one commander. ‘With the continuing U.S. military presence, our most militant warriors will have a strong argument for their position of ‘jihad forever,’ he says.”

Whatever happens makes a mockery of US policy was supposed to be, as Political Scientist Michal Brenner explains: “… didn’t President Obama declare repeatedly in last year’s presidential campaign that that the United States would be quitting Afghanistan by the end of 2014?  Hasn’t he repeatedly since said that active combat operations would end next year? Didn’t Vice-President Joe Biden unequivocally state in his debate with Paul Ryan, “But we are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period.” Didn’t he explain that “The fact is, we went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, Al Qaida. We’ve decimated Al Qaida central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose.”

Was it?

We, the unheard citizenry of this land of the free and the brave, are distressed, Mr. Karzai, to learn that our President has been scheming to position our forces there for another TEN years and without Congressional authorization—not that what this Congress thinks and does makes any sense either.

Karzai is now bargaining with the US by saying he supports the agreement, but wants to wait to implement it until after the Afghan elections.  Even though his leaders council or loya jirga of 2500 “notables,” once considered leaders, back the new agreement with the US, fearing Washington and its money may leave them in the lurch, the way they did in Iraq, Karzai has overruled them for the moment, pissing off just about everyone.

A cagey Karzai is ventilating at the US for dramatic effect, calculating that he can squeeze out more concessions even as the press was taking it all literally.

Noted a perplexed New York Times: “Even Mr. Karzai’s allies were at a loss to explain what he hoped to gain from the perplexing series of events over what was s expected to be a straight-forward deal.”

Straightforward to whom, certainly not the public? An impatient US government that cares little about what the public thinks, here or in Afghanistan, is threatening, pushing and prodding to impose the deal. The more they insist on it, the less Karzai likes it.

President Karzai, please don’t take this too personally, but I have been following you and your “evolving positions,” even back to the days when you liked and backed the Taliban, and know that you have also always had problems with the US that you say “don’t trust you and you don’t trust them.”

Why should you?

I am one of the few Americans who probably remember how you, yourself, Hamid, was targeted, and injured in the pre-drone days by a “friendly” US missile attack by our Air Force, and, then, had to be secretly flown out of the country in November of 2001 for medical care.

A broken face doesn’t dispose you to love us.

I remember the days when you were correctly being called the “Mayor of Kabul” because you had no influence outside the heavily fortified Capital, and when you rejected an international proposal for Afghanistan to end poppy production, even as there were rumors that your campaign took drug money and that your family known for their businesses in Baltimore and Chicago were also linked to drug growers and dealers.

Somehow, you survived the exposes, Hamid, because, I am sorry to recall, Washington needed you to front for our occupation and so, helped engineer (and then bless) an election that was “flawed,” as they say, by massive election “irregularities” (i.e. fraud).

You won, of course, and soon had the tailor-made outfits to wear that made you look more like the King of the Pashtuns than your appointed and staged role as the President of a democracy,

In 2009, the New York Times, a newspaper you now compare to Pravda, reported that you saw yourself more like a monarch, because,

“… in keeping with tradition, they placed the turban on his head. When he assumed the presidency, he took what he knew from tribal leadership and applied it to his method of rule. He sees himself as the tribal leader of all Afghans. As such he’s the last resort for those seeking to rectify injustice. ‘In his dream he is a king,’ one friend says.”

Oh, your excellency, no apologies needed: you do what you need to do and you never do it alone, Your fair weather friends, and now supposed enemies, in Washington colluded, and enabled and funded and covered-up all they could, including the looting of the Bank of Kabul and the disappearance of billions, not to mention the lack of itemization of funds allocated to build your country even as you set up an easy to access royal residence in Dubai.

The Times again:

“Other close friends of Karzai describe his leadership style as a kind of three-card monte where you never know which card will appear.”

Truth be told, Hamid the trickster and actor remains our main man. We can’t buy him so we rent him, and then tolerate his games of feint and delay because Afghanistan is a mineral-rich prize we can’t let go,

Writes the insightful Pepe Escobar:

“We came, we saw, we stayed. Forever. That’s the essence of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be struck between the Obama administration and Afghanistan – over 12 years after the start of the never-ending War on Terror.

President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry define it as a ‘strategic partnership’. If that’s the case, it’s one of the most lopsided in history; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is no more than a sartorially impeccable American puppet…”

How harsh these critics are. They don’t understand how hard it has been for you, Hamid, to deal with these Americans who have disdain for your culture and no sense of humor or contrition. They worry more about perception than reality while holding on to their “leverage.” (i.e. de-facto control.)

They can’t acknowledge their own arrogance, much less apologize for it.

It’s time for the American people to say, game over, and if the price of doing so, is to set up a 1-800 Apology phone line or hire a plane to fly over Kabul with a green flag of apology, let’s do it, to end this charade, cut our endless losses, and stop the killing.

The no-apology brigade conveniently forgets:

•The U.S. Congress apologized for slavery.

•The Scottsboro Boys were just pardoned after 80 years.

•We now trade with Vietnam after screwing them out of promised reparations.

•We compensated Japanese citizens detained wrongly during World War 2.

•Reagan apologized for Iran Contra.

•Oil and Gas Industry-funded Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP for being held accountable for the Gulf Oil spill.

•Clinton apologized for Monica.

•Former House Speaker Gingrich apologized for his extra-marital affair.

•And, Obama has apologized, has he ever,  for his pathetic website and not so affordable health care rules.

Apologies R’us. We all know how to say sorry, so this is not a case of grown men don’t cry.

Everybody apologizes, including the Vatican for the inquisition.  Tony Blair did it for the Irish potato famine and the Japanese continually do it for their many crimes.

The American Scholar produced this earlier account of an apology to trump all apologies, as reported by Reuters:

 “Villagers of the tiny settlement of Nubutautau [Fiji] wept as they apologized to the descendants of a British missionary killed and eaten by their ancestors 136 years ago.”

“The villagers and the relatives of the missionary, the Rev. Thomas Baker, were taking part in a complex ritual intended to lift a curse the locals say has caused an extended run of bad luck.” A cow was slaughtered and kisses given to the 11 relatives of the missionary by the village chief, Ratu Filimoni Nawawabalavu, “a descendant of the chief who cooked the missionary.” No word on whether the curse lifted.”

Sorry, to say: we have an imperial curse. It’s a non-partisan affliction that leads us to think we have to look tough even when we act stupidly. Forget mercy, compassion and justice. The official mantra is, and seemingly forever will be: “America #1!” We have a need to show how mighty are we in pursuit of “interests” that do not serve the public interest.

Afghanistan is the land that kills empires. Ask the British and the Russians. Forget the “lessons” of history.”  It is our fate to repeat them.

Never mind that we have been suckered into another decade of fighting a war intended to keep us from losing it. In the process, Afghan opium flows on, as the world laughs and gets addicted.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org. His new book is Madiba A-Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. (Seven Stories Press). Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

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  • DoomedNY

    Lost me at “meanies”.

  • Yūgen

    Is there a reason why under the article previews on the main page it just says “continue reading” instead of showing how many comments the article has like it used to? I really loved that feature since it made following things a lot easier and more practical.

  • Ted Heistman

    “Oh, Your excellency, Oh…Oh…Oh…..oh”

  • emperorreagan

    If you want to apologize to Afghanistan, the letter should start with an apology for putting Karzai in power.

    Or perhaps fighting a proxy war with the Soviets in the territory then abandoning support as soon as it was convenient, if you want to go back further.