Another day, another mass slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan. This time the cull of “collateral damage” came not from the world-historical agon at Marja, where Anglo-American sahibs are leading a contingent of colonial troops in a heavily hyped, made-for-media operation that blew a household of civilians, including five children, to smithereens in its opening salvos.
No, the new bloodbath occurred many miles away, in Kandahar, after a NATO patrol evidently saw some Afghan civilians going about their own business in their own country. Naturally, this shocking state of affairs was thought to pose a dire threat to the uninvited invaders who have been rampaging around the country for more than eight years — so, naturally, an airstrike was called in. Five human beings going about their own business in their own country were then blown to bits, and two more were wounded.
The double whammy of bad PR following these unrelated rub-outs has prompted some of the leading lions of Great Britain’s armed forces — worthy heirs to their world-spanning forbears, upon whose military glories the sun, it was said, never set — to offer some words of wisdom to those to whom they have now passed the White Man’s oh-so-heavy, oh-so-unwanted burden of global domination.
No less a personage than Her Majesty’s Air Chief Marshall Jock Stirrup — who also serves as Her Majesty’s Chief of Her Majesty’s Defence Staff — stepped forward to offer the young American pups a pearl drawn from Britain’s voluminous treasury of imperial experience. And what was that pearl? Why, here it is, from the Guardian:
“This operation … is not about battling the Taliban, it is about protecting the local population, and you don’t protect them when you kill them.”
By gad, sir, you’ve hit the nail on the head there, and no mistake. Killing people is indeed a rather ineffective way of protecting them. What piercing insight! What clarity of vision! “You don’t protect people when you kill them.” Is it any wonder that Britannia ruled the waves for so long?
Ah yes, but what can one do? The lesser breeds must be policed, after all. Nations must be invaded and occupied for years on end — even centuries, as the Brits can tell you! — and so one is bound to have these little bits of unpleasantness crop up from time to time in one’s colonial bailiwick. Best take it with a stiff upper lip — oh, and be sure to blame the recalcitrant tribes for their damnable refusal to accept the altruistic benefits poured out upon their captive land by one’s humanitarian war machine. Right, Jock?
“Of course in any conflict situation accidents happen and we must remember that most of the civilian casualties are not caused by ISAF [the international security assistance force] – they are caused by the Taliban.”
So that’s all right then. If the native insurgents would just stop using violence to advance their agenda the way we use violence to advance our agenda, why then, we would stop using violence to advance our agenda. It’s as simple as that. It’s their own damn fault. After all, it is a well-known fact of history — not to mention international law — that foreign invaders are not responsible in any way for any violence that occurs in the course of their invasion and occupation of other lands by force. Or as Punch might say to Judy: “If you’ll just lie down, I’ll stop hitting you.”
Then again, the Right Honourable Air Marshall, his American partners — and indeed, their many media embeds — might do well to ponder the Joseph Conrad quote with which Sukhdev Sandhu concluded his review of Mike Davis’ classic 2001 work, Late Victorian Holocausts:
As Conrad’s Marlow said in Heart of Darkness: “The conquest of the earth, which means the taking away from those who have a different complexion and slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much.”