"Actions speak for the depth of a society; a humane and a just society would always be respected. Arrogance begets hate and disgrace." Raja Mujtaba
By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
Forty second long video showing American Marines joyfully urinating on dead Afghan fighters in southern Afghanistan is the latest episode of disregard of basic Human values by Americans. Earlier there have been numerous incidents in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere where Human rights were grossly violated. Contrary to American claims to be a guardian and upholder of Human dignity, most of its utterances on this subject have been more of politically motivated rhetoric. If Americans are serious in the cause of Human rights and Human dignity, they would have, long ago, plugged this horrible gap in their military training curricula.
Memories of insults to which the American captors subjected their prisoners in Bagram, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, etc, have not yet faded from the collective memory of Mankind. Latest incident has crossed all previous bench marks of indecency.
There is an internationally recognized military custom that belligerents exchange dead bodies and while doing so they salute the dead adversaries as a mark of respect. Hopefully, America has regular professional standing armed forces in Afghanistan and it is not sending raw mercenaries for battle field tasking without any formal military training. It was indeed a Command Failure’; it warrants intervention by the UNHRC and ICRC.
Incident has caused a stir and deep fretfulness amongst all individuals and entities which have slightest respect for the Human dignity. Ordering of immediate investigation by the field commander is a welcome step, however of vital importance is prevention of recurrences. This is neither the first time nor it may be the last time that American soldiers consider themselves above any moral or legal accountability. The fact that the event was a group activity is quite worrisome.
As a matter of routine, American troops indulge in defiling the dead bodies of Afghan freedom fighters. This indicates that inquiry of earlier such incidents have failed to deter the men in the field. Hence, one tends to reach an unfortunate conclusion that earlier investigations had been an eye wash and did not translate into any serious disciplinary action against the defaulters.
This culture is well patronised; high offices of the American government are involved in sanctioning inhuman interrogation aids like water boarding, freeing dogs upon shackled prisoners and forcing inmates to stay naked for extended periods. This attitude has indeed travelled from top to bottom. Many of such victimized prisoners were later set free as they were not found guilty; there is no procedure or practice of compensation or apology.
It is interesting to observe that our pseudo flag bearers of human rights who do not let pass a day without demonising national institutions and agencies on trivial issues have treated this incident of gross violation of Human dignity as a non-event. Neither anchor persons have screamed on this matter nor were there any biting editorials. This brings forth the linkages such people have.
Frustration arising out of American failures in Afghanistan is phenomenal; denial is unable to mitigate the fallouts. Istanbul and Bon II conferences of the last year were a collapse at strategic level. It is expected that NATO could, too, ditch America during the forthcoming summit in May. Foreign soldier are dying in numbers in hpw Afghanistan. President Sarkozy is on the edge, rest are not far behind. A common American soldier has the inkling that he has been abandoned by its country. This psych makes the urination on corpses a joyful fun.
Under these gloomy circumstances, America is attempting to kick-start the negotiations with the Taliban. After Doha disaster, resulting into diplomatic rupture between Qatar and Afghanistan; there is rising scepticism on the entire process. Though the effort to deliver a breakthrough in the backdrop of the US presidential re-election campaign cannot be wished away, the two main players, Pakistan and Iran are sitting on the fence, one pushed against the wall and other made a persona non grata.
Due to gross error of judgment, spree of sanctions on Iran has begun to backfire. Due to the latest sanctions, Iran’s major trading partners find it increasingly difficult to pay for their oil imports. This includes EU, China, Russia, India, Japan and others. The EU promptly agreed to tow American line, Japan, though agreed, yet suggested to get China and India on board. “Without cooperation within the world community, there’s no way to carry out effective sanctions,” Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba opined. Indian Foreign Secretary said, “We have accepted sanctions which are made by the United Nations. Other sanctions do not apply to individual countries. We continue to buy oil from Iran.”
Iran and Pakistan know that there is no viable solution to Afghan quagmire without their participation; Americans also know it too well. In all probability, tempo of ongoing anti-Iran campaign is not likely to slow down before the American elections. Americans have lost the chance of availing Iran’s prudence that came to American rescue in Iraq; at least for the time being. Thanks to American unilateralism, despite these odds, the necessity of a hurried negotiated settlement with the Taliban has become their obsession. America is eager to demonstrate, or make the world believe of a breakthrough with the Taliban before the NATO and G8 summits scheduled for coming May.
This urgency has attracted criticism from several Northern Alliance members, which was duly articulated during a recent meeting with US delegates in Germany. Ahmed Rashid Dostum said that the talks could give the Taliban time to regroup and strengthen and that talks could have benefitted if they included anti-Taliban Afghans as well. Northern Alliance cannot be wished away in the final settlement of Afghanistan. Likewise sitting Afghan government cannot be excluded from the process. President Karzai’s reaction on such likelihood is not out of place. India understands that its vast presence in Afghanistan would be minimised if an agreement was reached between the occupation forces and the resistance. Indian Ambassador in Washington Nirupama Rao told a gathering that ‘the US should not let the dark forces emerge victorious’.
Going by traditional stance, Pakistan has once again indicated its willingness to be a part of Afghan negotiation process. Pakistan's offer to engage the Taliban in dialogue has also received a positive nod from the Afghan High Peace Council. This change in outlook between the two nations comes at a time when they are being increasingly sidelined by the US to engage directly with the Taliban. In this backdrop Pakistan needs to rise from the slumber and take a proactive approach. Above all, America needs to face the defeat with grace and take a fresh look at Afghanistan beyond p***ing.