When the invasion of Afghanistan was announced, there was hardly anyone anywhere who didn’t support it. It seemed pretty clear that the Taliban’s Mullah Omar was sheltering Al-Qaeda, and protecting Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network. So, when the Taliban fell, and democratic reforms began to be introduced in Afghanistan, even though Bin Laden had slipped away into the mists of legend, support for the Afghanistan invasion and occupation stayed high.
But over the past couple of years, things have begun to unravel. In January 2006, as the U.S began a drawdown of troops, NATO has begun to take over the occupation. But NATO has battled a resurgent Taliban, and now NATO forces are dying at ever increasing rates. So it’s no surprise that the troops are jumpy.
But an incident yesterday raises troubling questions about the war, American troops and the Afghan people’s support for it. In an AP story, Amir Shah writes:
Afghan journalists covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan Sunday said U.S. troops deleted their photos and video and warned them not to publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three Afghans were shot to death. Afghan witnesses and gunshot victims said U.S. forces fired on civilians in cars and on foot along at least a six-mile stretch of road in Nangarhar province following a suicide attack against the Marine convoy.
After five long, bloody years, the Taliban still have a foothold, especially in the southern part of the country. There is an increase in the production of opium poppies, which is the only real industry in the country. The central government only controls Kabul, and the country remains essentially what it has for millennia: a badlands ruled by tribal chieftans whose loyalties shift constantly.
What is most troubling about the incident yesterday is not another suicide attack, but the way the U.S. Army reacted. The only hope for victory in this war against medievalism is what Thomas Friedman calls “a ‘moral surge’ a counternihilism strategy that delegitimatizes suicide bombers.”
We have the best military hardware, the best trained troops, the biggest military budget in the history of the universe, and we are losing the war against medievalism because we haven’t been able to create a moral surge in the Muslim world. But, when U.S. troops prevent the press from telling the truth, or worse, kill civilians and then try to cover it up, any hope for the creation of a moral surge gets deleted, just like the AP’s photos.