This misleading headline has been quickly denounced as false by Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor. “No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan,” was the statement she made on CNN’s “Situation Room”. She further stated she does not know where these reports are coming from, that it seems to be a “complete misunderstanding of what the situation is.”
Well Ms. Rice, I’ll give you a couple clues. Let’s start with the lips of Hamid Karzai. And supposedly the lips of President Obama, according to Karzai.
Karzai is not a friend to the U.S., but in an area where the pickings are so slim, we took what we could get. There is no question he and his administration are corrupt. They are also nearly powerless in large swathes of the countryside.
There is nowhere this is more blatantly illustrated than in Karzai’s comments this past Sunday, wherein he criticized NATO allies for failure to protect Afghan civilians, citing a strike on Friday in which five supposed civilians were allegedly killed. In 2013 so far, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed and another 2,000 have been injured, a 23% increase over 2012.
What Karzai fails to mention is that upwards of 90% of civilian deaths have been at the hands of, and responsibility has been claimed for these deaths, by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist or inter-tribal attackers.
But Karzai is attempting to lay the blame for not protecting civilians at the feet of NATO forces. Clearly, it is NATO’s fault in his world-view and as reflected by speeches to his countrymen as his party jockeys for position in the upcoming parliamentary vote about the BSA, or Bilateral Security Agreement.
If Karzai admits he and his administration is as powerless as they in fact are, he has no hope of furthering his party’s agenda. Claiming he was promised a written letter of apology from the President of the United States not only shows how powerful he is, forcing this admission from the US. It also deflects all responsibility for the failures of his administration away from his ineptness, corruption and double-dealings with the supposed common enemy of his people and their future, the US and the long-term security of the larger world, the Taliban and their ilk.
So, is Karzai’s statements about Obama having promised a written letter of apology to the Afghan people for ‘mistakes’ more of his posturing, intentional misinterpretations of what was said or a combination, aimed at making him look strong? The truth is a bit more murky.
Susan Rice stated there will be no apology letter, yet she also states that mistake were made by US forces in the past. Part of the reason she said that, had to say that, is John Kerry said the same thing. In Afghanistan to Karzai and the international media and again when he got home to Washington.
We seem to have entered a game of ‘telephone’ on an international scale. Throw in one player who delivers very different messages depending on his audience (Karzai), and a US administration that is perhaps, finally, fed up with his double talk. Add in biased media reporting on both the international and national side, and it is very easy to understand how reports of an apology letter got started. And don’t forget to take into consideration a US President who has already publicly, internationally, apologized for America.
In the game of ‘telephone’, after everyone has received and repeated the message, the last person has to say what they heard and everyone gets a laugh at how different it is from the original message. In this deadly serious situation, this end-game scenario will not happen. There have been mixed messages and intentional miscommunications on all sides for more than a decade. There is no one able, or willing, to stand up and say what the original message was.
Unless of course, we look back to the reason we sent US troops to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, a country then controlled by radical extremists, gave sanctuary and succor to a group even more radical than they were. They were led by a charismatic (to those of a particularly weak, semi-literate mind set) leader who planned, funded and orchestrated an attack on US soil. We told the Taliban to hand over this man and his cronies or we will rain down on your heads all the power and wrath of the United States of America. They refused, and we did.
But, in order to pacify the weak stomached here, we also said we would not just remove this one man and his cronies. We would also liberate the majority of the people from the totalitarian rule that protected and nurtured this man, denied basic human rights to half it’s population, and help the poor, oppressed people of Afghanistan rebuild their society and infrastructure, giving them a chance for internal and external peace and security.
All of that is well and good, and was actually doable. But not the way we went about it.
The American people had, and still have, no real understanding of the people of Afghanistan. They are one country, but bisected along religious, cultural, linguistic and tribal lines. Each sect of the society believes it is the rightful heir to the mantle of power. This is a situation that has been ongoing for more than a millennium, yet US policy, at least as it was sold to the American people, presented the people of Afghanistan as a homogenous group.
That was one of our many mistakes, but we certainly don’t owe the Afghan people an apology for that. If anything, the American people are owed an apology. By this and the previous administration. By the main stream media. But mostly, by whomever was and is responsible for the Rules of Engagement placed on the troops we sent over there.
If there is going to be an official communication to the people of Afghanistan, I’d like to suggest some verbiage. Call it an apology, as Karzai did. Call it “careful wording” as Susan Rice did. Or call it “reassurances” as John Kerry did. Call it whatever you want, what matters is the content.
“To the People of Afghanistan, we deeply and sincerely apologize for the way in which we have conducted this war. From the beginning days of Special Forces searching for Bin Laden in Tora Bora, we were more concerned with perceptions than with getting the job done. For this, we are sorry.
From the beginning days, what we should have done is seal the borders of Afghanistan, particularly to the east, to prevent the constant resupply of men and arms streaming in from Pakistan and elsewhere. And to prevent those responsible for killing your people by the thousands an escape route to an even more lawless area of the world.
We apologize for forcing out those who oppressed half your population, decimated your economy and turned back then froze the evolutionary clock, locking your country in a 7th Century milieu.
We apologize for building schools which both boys and girls could attend, then rebuilding them when the aforementioned oppressors blew them up.
We apologize for digging wells so villages had access to clean drinking water for the first time in history.
We apologize for bringing medical care to areas that had never before seen a Doctor.
But most of all, we apologize for not allowing our soldiers to shoot on sight those who were known to be foreign fighters hiding in your fields and villages. We apologize for allowing them to enter and remain in your country, prohibiting any chance of peace in the immediate or even distant future.
In redress, we offer you nothing. For you see, good people of Afghanistan, we have already paid for our mistakes. With the blood and lives of our best and brightest.
Going forward, there is a decision to be made. You will either ‘allow’ our soldiers to continue to risk their lives for your freedom or you won’t. We’d prefer you choose not to ‘allow’ us the opportunity to lose more of our young men and women.
This should answer any lingering questions about exactly who is responsible for the deaths of your civilians, the continued collapse of your society and the inevitable return to a state of totalitarian oppression.
It is on you, people of Afghanistan. It always was. Our first, and worst mistake was not recognizing this and acting accordingly.”
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