Sunday, September 27, 2009 Charles Ferndale The American commander of the Western forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says he needs more troops or the war there will be lost within 12 months. He says also that US/NATO forces should kill fewer Afghans and try harder to win over their hearts and minds. “Hearts and minds” is a dreadful cliché, meaning little. But accepting it for the moment, there is no hope whatever of the Western powers winning over the hearts and minds of a people whom they have never even begun to understand. The only way we can win over their hearts and minds is to pull out of their country. I shall not attempt here to educate people who seem unwilling to learn, but I shall say only what is obvious to most people in the war region. The fighters opposing western presence in Afghanistan, whom we conveniently call “the Taliban,” do so because they think the war in Afghanistan is evil. They are proud to die fighting against this evil. And, in increasing numbers, they are willing to do so. They are fighting a war of national and cultural liberation from foreign oppressors. What we westerners find it hard to grasp is that there are few things about the west that appeal to Afghans. Even if we possessed the virtues to which we lay claim, they would not want to be like us. They do not admire us. So winning over their hearts and minds would require us to leave them alone, which, as I understand it, would be unthinkable for our geopolitical strategists. Afghans are not easily fooled; they know we wish to tame them and turn them into our obedient servants. Not only do they not like our culture, but to accept it would require them to give up their own culture. It would require us to persuade them that the codes by which they have lived for thousands of years are bad, while the codes of aggressive, opportunistic, dishonest, murderous unbelievers, who are their historical enemies, are better. We could only succeed in this venture by destroying the soul of the Afghan people; by cowing them into submission. They would rather die. Afghans have seen armed opportunists before and they are a proud people. They really do prefer death to dishonour, which is one reason why no one has ever conquered them. They see our presence in their country as evil, for many obvious reasons. We are a non-Muslim occupying armed force which it is the religious duty of every true Muslim to oppose; we are killing thousands of Afghans (most of whom are unarmed) for no reason acceptable to the families and fellow nationals of those we kill; we are maiming many thousands more; we are killing and maiming their animals; we are destroying their farms and livelihoods; we are destroying their homes; we are imprisoning and torturing their people; we have put power back into the hands of the very brutes from whom Mullah Omer liberated the country (almost bloodlessly) from 1994 to early 2001 (until we destroyed his power and brought to the fore all the worst people in Afghanistan); we are trying to impose upon them a political system that is entirely alien to their culture and that threatens the foundations that supported their culture for hundreds of years; we are corrupt liars who preach at them for their allegedly being corrupt liars; we kill them in the name of false ideals and false promises; we have done nothing whatever to improve the lives of most Afghans, while our industrialists have enriched themselves at the expense of the poor there; we refuse to give an honest answer to the question of why we are there at all, but talk rubbish about protecting our streets from terrorism; Westerners “tending to the needs” of Afghans in Kabul earn at least $300 a day (‘danger money’, though they are not in danger), while Afghans starve and die on less than $1 a day. In Afghanistan, the gap between our precepts and our practices is as tragically wide as is the gap between our incomes and theirs. Afghans are now starving to death, and well over a third of the population is suffering from malnutrition and its attendant diseases. Billions of dollars a month go into Afghanistan and most of it goes straight back out again into the bank accounts of the affluent. The Afghan war is an excuse to make some people very rich indeed. Almost no money reaches poor Afghans. We are dangerous hypocrites destabilising the region. All this is obvious to all Afghans. They are perceptive people. The means normally used in our own cultures to deceive the public are unavailable to most Afghans. Few read. Few have televisions sets. Few have radios. All they know is that they are fighting the most technologically advanced army in history; it is as heartless as it is advanced. Since the western armies arrived in 2001, pretending to be liberators, thousands of Afghans have died and every aspect of life has got much worse. These are some of the reasons why our military activities are seen as evil by an increasing number of Afghans. Meanwhile, General McChrystal says he wants more troops, so as to kill fewer Afghans! And he wants the soldiers to learn Pashto, so as to win over the hearts and minds of the people they are used to oppress! God preserve the Afghans from such insultingly, simple-minded dishonesty. Fortunately, few Afghans will have heard this nonsense. If they heard it they would laugh bitterly. The only people who appear unable to see through this sham are western leaders, perhaps because they are party to it. The writer has degrees from the Royal College of Art, Oxford University, and the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. He divides his time between the UK and Pakistan. Email: [email protected] Source: Does the west take the Afghans for fools?