The mentality of war

THE MASSACRE of 16 civilians, including nine children, in Kandahar province in Afghanistan has shocked the world but it is only the tip of the iceberg of the suffering of the Afghan people at the hands of the Nato occupying forces. And atrocities like this inevitably go hand in hand with any imperialist invasion and occupation.

If the local people are not hostile to begin with, they soon become so and an escalation of mutual hatred takes place. The naïve squaddies at first cannot understand their rejection by people they have been told they have come to liberate. Wehrmacht tank driver Henry Metelmann reported that many young Nazi troops felt this way when they invaded the Soviet Union. British occupation troops in the north of Ireland also felt the same way.

The invading troops feel isolated and potentially in danger from every civilian they see. Their lives are under great stress and they often witness their friends being killed. They grow to truly hate the people they are among — like the US troops who carried out the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. It is a process well documented in John Steinbeck’s short story The Moon is Down.

As Rudyard Kipling also documented in his account of British rule in India, when an individual soldier cracks under the pressure, usually he turns his gun on his officers. The massacre of civilians is more often a group gone mad — who have enough brain cells left between them to know that if they kill an officer they may well face the death penalty but if they kill local civilians, whom they regard as inferior beings, they will be protected from the full force of justice.

The people really responsible for this tragedy are safely sitting behind desks in Washington and Whitehall. They are the truly cold-blooded inflictors of pain and horror on the Afghan people and their purpose is political power and economic control.

And it suits the imperialist powers to have a barrier of hate and fear between their squaddies and the occupied people. If the troops got too friendly with the people they might be reluctant to fire on them when ordered.

And this is why the governments of Britain and the United States are happy to tolerate extreme right-wing Islamophobic pressure groups like the English Defence League and its US counterparts. Although these groups are officially banned within the armed forces a blind eye is turned and young men openly parade in EDL marches with inscriptions like “English Defence League Colchester Garrison Division” on their backs and army flags are a frequent sight at EDL events.

The EDL perfectly prepares young soldiers for the mentality that imperialism wants in its squaddies. This is the function that quasi fascist groups perform for the imperialist powers.

Last Sunday’s massacre has hit the headlines but hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan by the invading Nato troops — mostly in bombing raids or by robot drones. When British troops are killed they are named and publicly mourned. When Afghans are killed no one outside of their immediate circle gets to know their names and the occupying forces do not give them a second thought.

It is this ruthless, cold blooded attitude of the occupiers that drives the Afghans to join the Taliban.

The presence of these occupiers who kill casually humiliates them. This latest massacre will further reinforce the Taliban, which is winning the war. The imperialist powers do not want us to remember that three decades ago they were allies with the Taliban in fighting against a very different Afghanistan to the one that exists today — one where there were equal rights for women and for poor peasants under the socialist government of Najibullah. But the people of Afghanistan remember this. They would rather not join the Taliban but since it is the only force fighting the Nato occupiers they join it in desperation.

The Nato forces only face further defeats, deaths and humiliations if they stay. They are not protecting anyone, not even themselves; they are the cause of the problem, not the solution. They must be withdrawn immediately.

And it is those in the high offices of power who began this brutal war in 2001, along with those in power now who could end the bloodshed but don’t, who are the one who should be put on trial.