Thursday, February 07, 2008
Seven thousand miles from home, US Army Special Forces (SF) troops occupy a small compound in a village in southern Afghanistan. They call this outpost of empire Firebase Cobra and Inside the Green Berets is the title of the 2007 National Geographic Society documentary film about it. The allusion to a poisonous snake is apt, as is the narrator's unwitting description of it as a "modern-day Fort Apache."
Here's what the White Mountain Apache Tribe web site says about Fort Apache:
In July 1869 Brevet Colonel (Major) John Green of the U.S. 1st Cavalry led a scouting expedition of more than 120 troops into the White Mountains area from Camp Goodwin and Camp Grant to the south. Seeking to kill or capture any Apache people they encountered, the expedition headed north up the San Carlos River, across the Black River, and to the White River in the vicinity of the future site of Fort Apache.So, instead of killing all the White Mountain Apaches the US Army used their land as a staging ground to wage war against other Indians and enlisted their aid in doing so. As the web site notes:
Army scouts reported finding over 100 acres of cornfields along the White River. Escapa--an Apache chief that the Anglos called Miguel--visited the camp, and invited Col. Green to visit his village. Green sent Captain John Barry, urging him “if possible to exterminate the whole village.”
When Captain Barry arrived at Miguel's village, however, he found white flags "flying from every hut and from every prominent point," and "the men, women and children came out to meet them and went to work at once to cut corn for their horses, and showed such a spirit of delight at meeting them that the officers [said] if they had fired upon them they would have been guilty of cold-blooded murder."
Green returned to the White Mountains in November, and met again with the Apache leaders Escapa (Miguel), Eskininla (Diablo), Pedro, and Eskiltesela. They agreed to the creation of a military post and reservation, and directed Green to the confluence of the East and North Forks of the White River:
I have selected a site for a military post on the White Mountain River which is the finest I ever saw. The climate is delicious, and said by the Indians to be perfectly healthy, free from all malaria. Excellently well wooded and watered. It seems as though this one corner of Arizona were almost its garden spot, the beauty of its scenery, the fertility of its soil and facilities for irrigation are not surpassed by any place that ever came under my observation. Building material of fine pine timber is available within eight miles of this site. There is also plenty of limestone within a reasonable distance.
This post would be of the greatest advantage for the following reasons: It would compel the White Mountain Indians to live on their reservation or be driven from their beautiful country which they almost worship. It would stop their traffic in corn with the hostile tribes, they could not plant an acre of ground without our permission as we know every spot of it. It would make a good scouting post, being adjacent to hostile bands on either side. Also a good supply depot for Scouting expeditions from other posts, and in fact, I believe, would do more to end the Apache War than anything else.
In 1871 General George Crook was named commander of the Department of Arizona. Crook recognized that his regular soldiers were no match for the Native people he was sent to subdue, so he enlisted the aid of Indian men as scouts. In August 1871 he made his first visit to Fort Apache and engaged about 50 men from Pedro and Miguel’s bands to serve as Apache Scouts. The Scouts would play a decisive role in the success of the Army in the so-called “Apache Wars” of the next fifteen years, ending with the final surrender of the Chiricahua leader Geronimo in 1886. In part because of the Scouts’ service, our ancestors were able to maintain a portion of our homeland as the White Mountain Apache Reservation. ...The same divide-and-conquer strategy is at work in Afghanistan today by American and NATO troops.
Any way, back to the video. At about 3:15 into the film the "Assistant Team Commander" and senior enlisted man, "Sam," tells us that in two months his unit has "killed almost 200 people." He quickly corrects himself, "Taliban. Not people, just Taliban." You see, the Taliban are not people and everyone the Green Berets kill are necessarily Taliban or else they wouldn't have been killed because they only kill terrorists, not people. How perfectly nice and neat and circular. Seconds later, the narrator, producer, and director Steven Hoggard actually has the gall to tells us that the troops are there to also "win hearts and minds."
Several minutes later, the SFs are in an Afghani village whence the commanding officer, Captain "Rob" informs us: "We know that these people are relatively scared of us because the last few times we've been in this area we've been in fights. So, they're being a little bit more obedient than other places we go." The villagers have in fact hidden from the Americans for about twenty minutes before coming out to receive, among other things, hand-crank radios that can be tuned to only one frequency--that of the US-sponsored propaganda radio station.
At 21:10, we watch Firebase Cobra's 105 mm Howitzer "firing at Taliban targets somewhere beyond the dark horizon." It will do so, we are told, "throughout the night." There is no suggestion that the rounds are guided by a forward observer somewhere. Notwithstanding this, a few minutes later (29:06), Sam is whining: "I'll fight anybody all day long. I don't care. I'll fight a hundred of them guys. No Problem. But IEDs--I don't want to have nothing to do with them damn things. It's the coward's way to fight." A bit later (37:28), we are treated to scenes of buildings in a village previously destroyed by 1000-pound bombs dropped after Sam's team called in an air strike. The narrator generously admits that "perhaps a number of innocent civilians" were killed in the attack. Want to know who the terrorists and cowards are, Sam? Take a look around you and in the mirror, too.
The film crew's visit with the SFs is cut short by a deadly IED attack by the Afghani resistance. In short, while it is consciously pro-US propaganda, the documentary reveals the moral bankruptcy of the US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan and the ignorance/moral cowardice of the troops who leave their homes to kill and maim for the empire.
I'll close with a quote from a two-time Medal of Honor winner, retired Marine Major General Smedley Butler:
WAR is a racket. It always has been.See also:
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. ...
Until 1898 we didn't own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became "internationally minded." We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington's warning about "entangling alliances." We went to war. We acquired outside territory. ...
It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people -- who do not profit. ...
But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.
If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals in the United States. ...
Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. ... We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.
Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another "about face" ! ... Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final "about face" alone.
... Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.
There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. ...
Revised 31 Jan 2010: Expanded info on and quote by Smedley Butler
Revised 30 Jun 2016: Fixed dead links and added link re:"moral cowardice"
The Declaration of Independence asserts: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Several of the grievances listed later in the document refer specifcally to the military:
"He [King George III] has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
"He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
"For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
"For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:"
Likewise, the US Constitution describes liberty as a blessing of God not the fruit of American soldiers brutally occupying a foreign country in our names. Specific provisions of the Constitution were put in place to act as a check on the military because it was rightly viewed as such a great threat to liberty in THIS country. But lazy, slavishly ignorant American lemmings like Scott and the two anonymous commenters have allowed these checks to wither to virtually nothing.
Incidentally, some of those same Founders 'hid' behind pseudonyms to promote the Constitution even though the country was no longer at war. Of course you'd know this if you'd ever read the Federalist Papers. But, then, who would want to bother with such 'wordy debates'?
You claim, "very few hold the values which give them the courage to fight and die for their country whether they agree with the war or not." On the contrary, far too many Americans hold such slavish values or else it would not be possible to invade and occupy two foreign countries. And from an evolutionary point-of-view, just how 'fit' are these meatheads who put their lives and limbs on the line for the government (not "their country," as you would have it) and a cause they don't necessarily understand or agree with? 58,000 mostly young Americans died in the Vietnam War, how many of them had any kids afterwards?
Respect is earned, not granted. If you want respect then act like a thoughtful, civilized human being instead of a fascist thug.
However, it is inappropriate to insult and evaluate with a fine tooth comb the instruments that soldiers are in these wars.
We must remember that most of these guys are doing what they are told by someone else, and are merely following orders.
Nobody wins in war, and yes it is a racket. It is all the bad that people make it out to be.
But, those that are nothing more than a pawn in the game should not be scrutinized for their actions during a war.
Also, while the Army may have ordered the troops in the film to cooperate with the producers I cannot believe they scripted their remarks. So, when someone like Sam whines on camera about IEDs but not US artillery and bombs then he deserves the scrutiny and criticism he gets.
Finally, I don't think we do the troops any favors by excusing or papering over the horrendous things that some of them have done. I'm not saying they all deserve long prison terms (although a few of them clearly do) but I think part of the epidemic of PTSD and suicides stem from preventing troops from coming to terms with the evil that they have done. Forgiveness, including forgiving oneself, starts with an admission of guilt. Of course, realizing that we were used by our leaders and our society goes along with that, too.
Most Americans don't want to see or call out the evil the troops have done. That would mean confronting our own guilt and complicity in that evil because we supported it (perhaps ignorantly or naively) or have done too little to save the troops--our brothers and sisters--from being ordered to do and participate in evil.
Please get it through your head that US troops are not "our troops". They're not yours and they're not mine. A troop is an invention of the military. They belong to the government, hence the abbreviation G.I. for "government issue." They take their orders from the President and most of them don't have the guts or the brains to take seriously their oath to support and defend the US Constitution--they just follow orders, which is probably just the way you like it. It's certainly the way the criminals in Washington, DC like it.
You ask "why would they destroy these villages then show up with aid and supplies"? One obvious answer is to confuse weak-minded people about what the US is really doing in Afghanistan. How would you receive foreign troops if they invaded your country, killed your family and neighbors, and then showed up with some band-aids and trinkets to placate you?
Yes, I remember 9/11. Even if they wanted to, how could any American forget it when it is endlessly invoked by idiots and opportunists to justify almost anything the government wants to do?
I can not support your position that the American soldiers are cowards. That is an offensive and crude statment to make. Your posts claiming that the "assertion and insult" of the "patriotically-correct" are without substance is also inaccurate. I think you are claiming that these "insults" are fallacious ad hominem statements; however, the fact remains that you are NOT in Afghanistan and are NOT a special forces soldier therefore invalidating your credibility. Your opinion of the situation is fundamentally flawed, because you have only a documentary to provide you with your viewpoint.
What I find more insulting is your accusation that American G.I.s are "brainless and gutless." I proudly serve in the U.S. Army as a medical officer. According to your claim, despite my medical degree, I am also brainless.
Would you suggest that America stand by idly as terrorists run rampant across the globe? War is not perfect, the U.S. Army Special Forces is not perfect. However, for you to call these men cowards is truly insulting. Quit attacking the soldiers who have decided to protect our country when your real problem seems to be with the war in Afghanistan.
It's one thing to disagree with an institution or idea such as the military or the government. It is an entirely different thing to attack the men/women who believe in the ideals you apparently don't value.
Don't forget you can always move to China where you wouldn't even be able to post such a hate-inspired anti-government blog.
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