America: We’re Like Everyone Else

Hamid KarzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai has called for the removal of American troops from the province west of Kabul. He claims that the troops have been involved in torture, some even leading to death of civilians in that area. Here’s what I know: nothing. It could just be Karzai playing politics or it could be what he says is true or it could be both. American troops have done this kind of thing before. They have even done this kind of thing in Afghanistan. So it would be absurd to just dismiss the claim out of hand.

Unless, of course, you are part of the overwhelming majority of Americans who just know that we could never do any of the terrible things that we absolutely have done. The My Lai Massacre never happen, for example. That’s one of the frustrating things for most Americans: they have no idea why anyone in the world would hate America. After all, they’ve never seen news to indicate that America is anything but a force for good in the world. Those people who hate us must be insane or hate us for our freedom!

I first read about the Karzai allegations at NBC, Afghan President Orders US Forces Out of Key Province. The reporting is pretty objective. My only problem with it is in comparison with how it would have been reported the other way around. The American news media tend to take military claims as the truth. But I’m happy enough with this reporting: at this point it is just Karzai’s claim.

What was more interesting was reading the comments. I didn’t go all that far through them; I read around 50. But with one exception, they were all of the form: Karzai is just lying and we ought to get out of there anyway. But the one comment that was different was really telling. He actually believes the claims:

Why are we not surprised? I really think it’s high time that we do unto our enemies as they have and still do unto us. We don’t know what those troops are dealing with day in and day out. I say whatever it takes to make it home to your love ones. Being a retired service member myself and having served in combat I support them (the troops) 200 percent.

I feel so warm inside. I want to break into “You’re a Grand Old Flag”! After all, we’re just doing to “them” what they do to us. And we don’t know what those troops are going through, so we should support them twice as much as it logically possible. If they just want to massacre a whole village, they must have a very good reason! I need to take a breath…

When I hear people talking like this, it makes me think that it doesn’t matter how many al-Qaeda leaders we kill, they won this war long ago. It is one thing for a government to be evil—they pretty much are by definition. But the fact that people on a middle-of-the-road website cheer for torture shows that we’ve become a far worse nation than we were when I was a kid. At least then we had the ideal of rising to a higher level.

But the other commenters bother me more. They are the ones who really think they have a good bead on reality. They think they know what’s going on. They can’t imagine that they would ever fall for propaganda. And in this case, they may well be right. But the assumption they all make is that of course Karzai would lie and of course American officials tell the truth. And that is even more dangerous than the pro-torture cheerleaders.

Afterword

I almost forgot! I like that line about there never being a “boast or brag.” On one level, it is hilarious, because of course, it is a boast and brag. But on another, there used to be a feeling that we were such a great nation that we shouldn’t go around rubbing the noses of other nations in it. Well not anymore. I were to write the equivalent song today, it would be called, “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “America: We’re Like Everyone Else

  1. Because no-one can ever have too many book recs:

    Sarah Chayes wrote one, "The Punishment Of Virtue," about Afghanistan. She’s the kind of loony-tune altruist that decided after our war started there she had to participate, as a generic volunteer. She’s also the kind of loony-tune altruist whom, when a Taliban young male bearing an AK-47 criticizes her for not being veiled, just up and slaps him in the face. And the kid backs off.

    So she’s kinda nuts (but in a good-hearted way) and her book is very informative about Afghanistan. She’s tight with the non-corrupt locals hoping to replace Karzai (spoiler; they fail, and the best of them are murdered.) Karzai in the book comes off as an absolute prick, surprise surprise.

    It’s part memoir, part travelogue, part history, and well worth looking at. I’d probably avoid Ms. Chayes in any kind of social setting, she’s just scarily too noble, but I appreciated her book. Sad stuff (these people have been utterly fucked for ages) but good writing.

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