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"Winning The Hearts and Minds"

Message Dave Lefcourt
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This story didn't quite make it to headline status (page 10 of the Sunday New York Times), but it should have.

It seems the "Shootings of Afghan civilians by American and NATO convoys at military checkpoints have spiked sharply this year, becoming the leading cause of combined civilian deaths and injuries at the hands of Western forces, American officials say."[1]

The "shootings are a major reason civilians casualties in Afghanistan are soaring after a much-publicized period of decline."[2]

Incredibly, according to these reports, "since last summer, none of the Afghans killed or wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings had weapons that would have posed a danger for troops who killed them, commanders said."[3] These "shootings inflame Afghans who see them as proof that Western forces operate with impunity".[4]

Recently a "military-commissioned survey of almost 2000 residents of Kandahar Province found that American and NATO convoys were perceived as equally dangerous as roadside bombs and more dangerous than Taliban checkpoints,"[5] (Kandahar Province being the area of major escalation of U.S. forces since January).

Since January there has been "almost 2 times"[6] the number of civilians killed during a similar period last year. And even as civilian casualties have declined from air strikes overall, "In February"27 civilians were killed"mistaken for Taliban fighters" by American attack helicopters."[7]

Well so much for General Stanley McChrystal "guidelines" to "put in place measures to reduce civilian casualties."[8] His intent, after all, was to win the hearts and minds of the people, embrace the American forces and turn away from the Taliban.

That clearly has not happened. In fact the exact opposite has taken place.

In light of this "evidence" one would think some measures would be called for. Yet there are no calls for McChrystal to step down or be replaced. There is no talk of questioning or reconsidering our "mission" in Afghanistan. In fact there is little if any discussion of Afghanistan at all. It has become a side show, a minor story. Deaths there, ours or theirs are statistics. War (endless?) has become like the Sun rising and setting each day. Afghanistan? Oh yeah, that!

Unlike Viet Nam, with its daily carnage reported and visual presence in front of Americans, today's wars are mostly hidden from view, relegated to the back pages, even of major newspapers, like a back water story that few care about.

Whether it is callousness, a numbing of the senses (from more than 8 years of war droning on endlessly with no end in sight) or other issues and personal concerns of people, our seeming indifference to our wars is a new phenomenon.

But beware, it is hardly "indifferent" to those we maim and kill in our wars and occupations and especially to those who vow revenge and will use any means (terrorism, suicide attacks) in retaliation against us.

That plaint heard immediately after 9/11 (that sticks in this writers head) was of the woman who said incredulously, "Why do they hate us so much?" Are we still so naà ve to ask such a question?

[1] "Convoy and Checkpoint Shootings of Afghan Civilians Jump", by Richard A. Oppel Jr., "The New York Times", May 9, 2010.

[2] See footnote #1

[3] See footnote #1

[4] See footnote #1

[5] See footnote #1

[6] See footnote #1

[7] See footnote #1

[8] See footnote #1

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