When 'the longest war' by US turns forever, so does the suffering of the Afghan people
Published: May 21, 2021 12:37 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

For decades, the sky of Kabul has not been lit up by kites, but flares and smoke. The latest pall came from a blast that cost 85 lives, mostly young schoolgirls. At a time when the American troops are pulling out of Afghanistan, the pain and sorrow endured by the Afghan people continues after 20 years of the US invasion. A disorderly and irresponsible withdrawal by the US may turn the longest war into a forever war, with the agony and despair lasting forever. 

Setting their feet on the Afghan soil, the US forces did not bring "the gospel of a savior." Instead, it was illegal armed aggression that created a humanitarian catastrophe for 22 million Afghans. Every year witnessed hundreds or even thousands of civilian deaths in bombings or airstrikes carried out by the US troops. The death toll of Afghan civilians in the last 20 years was 43,074, according to the most conservative estimation by Brown University. Altogether, the dead and injured as well as the displaced by US invasion exceed 150,000.    

Besides the well-documented figures, in July 2010, Wikileaks published a collection of internal US military logs of the War in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents. The dead could be passengers riding a bus, a deaf man that could not hear warnings from American soldiers, or women and their babies in small villages. In the eyes of the US troops, these innocent men and women could all be accomplices of Al-Qaeda and thus needed to be eliminated.

The war on terror seemed to have triumphed with the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, making it hard to justify US troops' continued presence in Afghanistan. Yet, the forces stayed and more harm was done. In fact, some of the most ferocious crimes committed by the US troops happened in the second decade of their occupation. 

The most notorious incident was the Panjwai massacre, in which US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales murdered 17 civilians and wounded six others in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province. Nine of the victims were children, and 11 of the dead were from the same family. Contrary to what the US authorities concluded, an Afghan parliamentary probe concluded that up to 20 US soldiers were involved in the killings. But the murderer, with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands, escaped death penalty after an apology. The broken family received $860,000 in compensation - multiple times than the $1,500-per-life payment for those killed by American soldiers. When facing charges of human rights violations, this was the typical US response - underplay crimes and harm, then underpay. 

Staff Sergeant Bales' behavior could not be explained by the "lone gunman" theory, nor could he be excused by any war-related stress disorder. The US army men may be cheated by their country's lies that human rights protection was why they crusaded into Afghanistan. Actually, under the glorious banner there was outright disrespect to and contempt for local people and their beliefs. This could explain the troops' barbaric acts at Bagram Collection Point where they tortured prisoners to death, their motive to urinate on the dead bodies of Afghans, as well as their burning of Quran in Bagram Air Base.

Under the smiling face of the soldier posing with body parts of dead Afghan insurgents was a ruthless heart, which also coursed through the veins of many politicians in Washington D.C., who should be more guilty of the human rights abuses in Afghanistan. For them, Afghanistan and its people were, are and will always be a pawn in the middle of their "grand chessboard," and human rights is only something to play with. What they practice is just the opposite to what they preach. They are the ones that authorized the invasion in the name of justice. They are the ones that whitewashed the troops' crimes. They are the ones who threatened asset freezing and family travel bans against the International Criminal Court (ICC) staff, who insisted on investigation into serious abuses and possible war crimes by the US army and intelligence. They lie and they cheat. They kill and they conceal.

This is what the US keeps doing after the Cold War in the Balkans, the Gulf, Syria and Afghanistan. Under the guise of human rights protection, the US brings turmoil and disorder to many other countries and regions. The US refuses to admit that people who died from the US-triggered wars all over the world were as innocent as those who died in the World Trade Centre, and that the land scorched by the American artillery is worth thousands of times that of Ground Zero. The US never accepts the fact that there is always a better way to settle disputes, and that refraining from the use of force is enshrined in the UN Charter. When the US argues that human rights is superior to sovereignty, what it really means is strong powers override the rights of people of other races.

The author is a current affairs commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn