The Kabul drone strike killing 10 civilians including 7 children was a “mistake,” the world’s so-called superpower has sheepishly admitted. “The vehicle targeted was likely not a threat associated with ISIS-K…it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,” said Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, at the Pentagon.
It may be an acceptable explanation for those “liberal” folks who ideologically oppose Islamists and theoretically support modernization thesism and revere America as the beacon and guardian of liberal international order.
For the media and columnists, it may be a new opportunity—a blessing in disguise—to have something fresh and solid to slam the expansionist empire of our times. But for those who are skeptical of the current world order and popular discourses, this is a moment to expose the masked, clever enemy.
In this essay, I attempt to present a case against the common enemy of Americans, Pakistanis, and Afghans. In the first part, I talk about identifying the “enemy.” My contention is that without knowing our common enemy, all criticism will remain misdirected. The second part highlights America’s sins in Afghanistan.
What was the human cost of America’s longest war? In the last part, I discuss the role of “the America” inside America. Why did the country fail to create sustainable socioeconomic institutions? Finally, I argue that those who failed Afghans have unfortunately failed Americans. Therefore, the struggle of all men and women in the US and other parts of the world should be against the common enemy.
Meeting the enemy
My professor of International Relations, Dr. Latha Varadarajan, popularly known as Prof. V, at San Diego State University, recently advised me to define my terms and be specific when I say “America bombed Muslims”.
“What do you mean by America?” she asked smilingly.
It may sound like an academic question to some political commentators but after due deliberation, it becomes one of the most important points to get our attention prior to any discussion about the United States’ imperialistic and expansionistic foreign policy. Unless we define our “enemy” we will simply be beating the bush masqueraded as serious and critical analysis.
Natsu Taylor Saito, Professor of Law at Georgia State University’s College of Law in Atlanta, wrote an insightful book titled Meeting the Enemy: American Exceptionalism and International Law in 2010. Saito argues that America’s hegemony is because of the fact that it controls “a hugely disproportionate share of global wealth and resources.” She then explains who is the beneficiary of this huge disproportionality of wealth. There are 500 billionaires across the world who own the wealth and resources more than the rest of the population, and, quite unsurprisingly, half of them are Americans.
Interestingly, the presence of the billionaires did not produce sustainable social, political, or economic institutions for the welfare of the public. Notably, the top 1 percent population “controls between 33 and 40 percent of the country’s wealth and receives more after-tax income than the bottom 40 percent of the population combined.” According to a report of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “30 million people in the U.S. go hungry, 12 million of them children, and an estimated 750,000 Americans are homeless on any given night.”
Afghan war: Whose war anyway?
At the end of America’s ruling elite’s longest war, it is pivotal to have a look at the human cost of this imperialist militarism and relentless desire for the occupation of foreign territories. The data collected by Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and from the Brown University Costs of War project reveals that 2, 448 American service members, 3, 846 US contractors, 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 1, 144 other allied service members, and NATO state members, 47, 245 Afghan civilians, 51, 191 Taliban fighters, 444 aid workers and 72 journalists were killed during this war.
After destroying the social, political, and economic institutions of a country American President Joe Biden on July 21, 2021: “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” This self-assured hubris should be embarrassing for every single person of the American ruling elite, its civil society, think tanks, and academics.
It needs to be stated without ifs and buts that the American ruling elite and war-mongering corporations are the direct beneficiaries of America’s interventionist policies. The war serves the interests of the American ruling elite, not the American working class. The state of the American working class is not much different from that of the members of the same class in any other capitalist country.
Beyond the law folks
The killing of 7 children in Afghanistan should lead us to the fundamentals of this debate. Why does America use drone technology? American officers and pro-establishment scholars have always maintained that the technology is always helpful to face the element and “few civilians have been killed” as a result of drone strikes. The debate, therefore, remained on the dead ones: militants or civilians. There has been a deliberate reluctance to question the moral and legal basis of drone strikes.
According to the New America Foundation’s report, the US launched a total of 409 of which 3,096 people were killed. 2, 533 militants, 288 civilians, and 275 were unknown among the dead ones. These strikes grossly violated fundamental human rights, Pakistan’s sovereignty, and basic legal norms. What America has earned through these attacks is yet to be known, but what it has lost because of this selfishness and arrogance is irreversible. In addition to that, notes Prof. Saito, it is America’s inability to effectively participate in the international system for its smooth function.
Guantanamo: An ugly face of American exceptionalism
Nazi Germany created more than 44, 000 concentration camps between 1933 and 1945 with an idea to use them for forced labor and mass murder. These torture cells are remembered as the biggest crimes against humanity. The conscience of those who were in any way part of this human tragedy will never find peace. My worst fear is, however, that the tragedy authored by Nazi Germany is equally, at least in substance, if not in scope, being repeated by capitalist America.
Almost 20 years ago, the United States created a torture cell, America’s concentration camp, at Guantanamo. A place where no moral or legal norm exists. A place where civilization dies. A place beyond the imagination of any normal human being. A place beyond the scope of the world’s most powerful court, the Supreme Court of the United States. A place that preserves America’s ugly face.
Read more: What is wrong with the Taliban’s ideology?
According to the latest report of Al Jazeera, at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp “US constitutional protections of due process do not apply, allowing the government to maintain secret evidence derived from torture and to hold detainees indefinitely.” It should shake our souls to the core to read that “lawyers who represent detainees are required to enter non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from publicly describing the torture suffered by their clients.”
Will Durant, an American historian, and scholar wrote the case for India to expose the atrocities of the English being committed against Indians. Durant called this “scene of exaction, rapacity, and plunder” a “greatest crime in all history”. Had he been alive, what would have been said about “the America” for its crimes in Afghanistan and America?
Fighting the common enemy
If an Afghan or a Pakistani thinks that American students, doctors, engineers, and social workers are responsible for the instability in their countries, they are mistaken. Those who have looted and exploited Afghans have also controlled and exploited the Americans. For the exploiters, communities or their identities are insignificant, only maximization of wealth matters. The exploiters—the American ruling elite following an expansionist and imperialist agenda— are responsible for all the tragedies in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the authors of human tragedy taking place in Guantanamo Bay.
Karl Marx had noted long ago that it is the proletariat that can revolt against the bourgeoisie but the only challenge is that “they lack consciousness.” How long will this lack of consciousness continue to persist? There is no exact answer to this complex question but the process has already begun. The process shall be dynamic and challenging as Prof. V notes that “knowledge is uncomfortable, only ignorance is comfortable.” The process of self-discovery and revolt against the common enemy is not going to be an easy ride.
Farah Adeed is studying political science at San Diego State University, California, USA. He previously worked as Asst Editor at GVS. He can be followed @farah_adeed on Twitter. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.