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Liberator or Occupier--Just Look Who Calls the Shots
By Dave Lindorff
Just what kind of ally is the US and its Coalition of the Willing or Sort of Willing?
First, imagine if you will that the U.S., unable to get enough troops into New Orleans to handle the post-Katrina rescue and security situation, had invited in German or maybe Venezuelan troops (actually on offer from Hugo Chavez). Imagine then that those foreign troops had begun busting into people’s homes to haul them out of town, had begun shooting people they considered to be lawbreakers, and had conducted aerial bombardments of neighborhoods deemed too dangerous to go into. Imagine that U.S. authorities called for a halt to such activities, only to be told by the foreign forces’ generals that they were going to continue with their aggressive tactics to keep their own casualties down.
Got the picture? Well, you’ve just pictured today’s Iraq and Afghanistan.
In theory, both countries are "sovereign" nations that have asked the U.S. military, which installed their governments in power, to stay on and defeat local insurgencies.
Note that this would imply that the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are the bosses, with the U.S.-led military forces in each country playing a supporting role.
And yet in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we have the governments complaining about the way those military forces are operating.
In Afghanistan, President Hamed Karzai has told the U.S. military that he doesn't think they need to or ought to be conducting aerial strikes against Taliban forces. Nor does he want them to continue the standard practice of busting into houses in the dead of night to conduct search-and-destroy, or search-and-arrest operations. One can understand the president's frustration. The air strikes have led to some truly dreadful tragedies, in which whole families, including women and small children, have been killed, and the busting down of doors and the rousting of families from their homes creates more enemies than it captures.
Yet the response of the U.S. military, allegedly an invited "guest" of the Afghan regime, has been dismissive. U.S. military policy is heavily dependent upon air power, which is seen by the Pentagon and the White House as a way of minimizing U.S. casualties--a key goal for domestic political reasons--while smashing into homes is a way of creating an atmosphere of terror and fear--a second key goal that seeks to scare locals into not supporting the insurgency.
In Iraq, the situation is similar. The Iraqi government says it must have the final say before US air strikes or assaults on towns and villages, but the U.S. military ignores the demand, knowing that the Iraqi government is permeated with insurgent sympathizers who could tip insurgents' hands to every planned attack.
In the south, in majority-Shiite Basra, the police are so dominated by anti-occupation Muktada Al Sadr militia forces, that British forces there had to attack and destroy a police station with a light tank to release two British soldiers who had been arrested by local police.
The U.S. military's casual dismissal of government authority in Iraq and Afghanistan makes it clear that the governments in both countries are not what they claim to be--sovereign authorities--but rather are puppets of the U.S. It is also clear that the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, far from being playing the stated role of "liberator," is an occupation army.
It is a hopeless position, with insurgencies growing rapidly in both countries. The stronger those insurgencies become, the more aggressive the U.S. military will have to become, and the bigger the disconnect will become between the illusion of local government “sovereignty