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The Massacre: Who will answer?

16 Apr

On March 11th 2012, one of the most horrific war crimes took place in the history of America’s ten year campaign in Afghanistan. Among the seventeen that died were 9 children. Their deaths shook Kandahar for days. It was not only a period of deep mourning, but a one of reflection. What is America’s role in this war? What purpose do we have with our continued presence in Afghanistan? Are we really solving anything by staying in a country in which we become more and more despised every day?

The murders were perpetrated by Seargent Robert Bales – a man who was a highly decorated Sergeant in the U.S. Army. It is an understatement to say the whole incident was curious. It is claimed that the sergeant was under the influence of alcohol and was in deep stress and mental anguish due to his financial difficulties at home, but this still doesn’t nearly absolve the accused. The army spokesman’s explanation is ridiculous. There are many in this country that have the same problems, or even worse, but don’t go on a killing spree. The sad thing about it is that the accused doesn’t even seem to have the slightest feeling of remorse; he just hired a lawyer immediately after his crimes, and was unavailable for comment. Due to the lack of reaction, one gets the feeling that Robert Bales may suffer from the Savage War trope. His seeming disregard for Afghan lives may come out of Semmerling’s idea that the Afghans are savages (based on blood or culture) who are incapable and opposed to progress and civilization, which means that in order for progress and civilization to exist, the savages must be eliminated

Although, one may feel that I am jumping the gun to accuse Bales, and make him a scapegoat. I am not; it’s just that he handed himself over to authorities immediately, so he’s clearly the main suspect for now. The U.S. Department of Defense confirms this, and doesn’t claim otherwise. Although compensation was given, of US $860,000, to provide financial aid to the family, compensation through a lawsuit seems unlikely, as there is seemingly a lack of evidence to convict Robert Bales. Anyhow, a compensation of any nature cannot replace the loss of loved ones, especially those as young two years old. The fallout of this had been that the Taliban has called off peace talks, which admittedly were not going anywhere. But at least there was hope. As it stands, the blood is on Bales’ hands; with the meltdown of peace talks and an angered Taliban, the blood of not only more Afghan civilians, but also American troops could be as well as America’s presence in Afghanistan endures into the unforeseeable future.

Additional Citations:

Lecture slides from Evelyn Alsultany, Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Burning the Holy Qu’ran: No Big Deal?

16 Apr

Burning the Holy Qu’ran: No big deal

The mass-burning of the Qu’ran and other Islamic texts on February 22nd this year at the Bagram Air Base wasn’t the first instance in which the holy book of Islam was incinerated by American authorities. It’s happened before at Guantanamo bay, and it is likely to happen again. The presence of American forces in Afghanistan should be reassuring for the average Afghan civilian but, over the last ten years, it has been anything but. But more about the safety of the Afghan people in a later post.  We find that the sentiments of the Afghani people are rarely being considered when an action such as this is carried out. American troops are in Afghanistan to try and win hearts, and yet, the Afghanis are probably feeling more alienated since the 22nd.

It seems like the American government and military leadership maintain the same principle that has been a cornerstone of U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the last twenty-one years; Samuel Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations. This is the theory that that there is an inherent difference between “Islam” and the “West”. It proposes that Islam is totalitarian and intolerant by its very nature; that Islamism has replaced communism since the Cold War as the greatest threat facing the West and only the use of military force will eradicate this threat. It also purports that global conflict used to be ideological (e.g. The Cold War), but is becoming increasingly cultural. There are deep irreconcilable cultural differences that will lead to conflict in the new millennium.

The American Benevolent Supremacy, is unable to work its magic in Afghanistan and is failing miserably.  America neither rules by principles of generosity and kindness, nor promises to lead Afghanistan into democracy as the Karzai regime runs into a period of further turbulence and instability; this is largely due to the government’s “failure to bring to the Taliban to the discussion table”.  Furthermore, Afghanistan used to be under the control of the former U.S.S.R. in the mid-80’s, which was a time of subjugation,  but the American involvement in the country hasn’t translated to delivering freedom from oppression.

Since the Qu’ran burning, one would think the Afghans would be up in arms, and a nationwide agitation would be brewing. Aside from protests in Kabul in the north, which is Tajik-dominated, the rest of the county has been fairly quiet in spite of the sensitive nature of the Qu’ran burning, as highlighted in “Unsettlement in Kabul”. In fact, the protests in Kabul have less to do with the Qu’ran burning and more to do with the Tajiks, “the second largest ethnic group”, having a problem with U.S. army trying to have a dialogue with the Taliban, which is Pashtun-dominated. The protests cause is basically the long standing enmity between Tajiks and Pashtuns.

One can then deduce that crimes against Islam are something that the Afghan layman have become used to. Taliban extremists use violence and massacre to protest it, but despite the attention they receive in the U.S. media, they are simply a minority. The “Taliban way” is not a solution, and shouldn’t become one for other Afghans, especially for other Pashtuns. America clearly has a Hegemony over the Afghans. This is because the U.S. army presence is a dominant feature of life in the majority of Afghanistan; the presence of the army in villages, in trading cities, and in the capital ensures that the American presence is taken for granted, and that the Afghan culture is subdued. The U.S. army can burn a Qu’ran and Afghans do anything about it. America’s leaders and army have chosen to see Afghanistan as a “playground for terrorists in the War on Terror” rather than a nation with its own complex culture and history. Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony has been achieved through the production of “common sense” that America’s presence and actions are a reality that the Afghans feel they can do very little about, so it is taken for granted. While Hegemony works through force, such as the action of burning the Qur’an, “it’s effectiveness depends on subordinated peoples accepting the dominant ideology as “normal reality of common sense”” (Lull, 63). The Afghans have learned to live with the threat of violence, whether it is to themselves or to their religion. Over a period of ten years, with the constant attacks, collateral damage, and killing of innocent civilians, the “U.S have continually won and secured Hegemony over time” (Lull, 64).

The unfortunate situation is that the American occupation of Afghanistan doesn’t seem like it will come to an end any time soon.  The Karzai government wants America and NATO to remain in Afghanistan, for fear of an overthrow by the Taliban. This is clear instance of where this U.S.-backed government has become so molly-coddled and infantalized that it cannot survive without big brother to support; the lack of confidence that the government has suggests that U.S. presence will not end in 2014. The American government for knows that this ten year war is going nowhere; the Taliban are not willing to recognize the existence of the Karzai government, let alone sit at a table and talk peace . America does not want another Vietnam, whereby the Vietnam Syndrome recurs after the war. The U.S. cannot be seen globally as “failing in nerve” or “masculinity”. After having invested over $400 billion and 1,848 American lives – cannot afford Afghanistan to erupt into civil war. The damage failure in Afghanistan could, both in terms of image and sunk costs, be irreparable.

Additional Citations:

Lecture slides from Evelyn Alsultany, Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Statement of Purpose

14 Apr

This site was created by Devin Riley, Rahul Ramachandran, Brett Leach, and Rayyan Sami in order to creatively express marginalized points of view and challenge the dominant hierarchy of power that is prevalent in modern media by posting on unorthodox news stories, circulating factual information, and challenging readers to consider their own perspectives, and how their perspectives influence the way they interact in the world around them.  We believe an important aspect of this blog is to present all the traditional non-trivial news stories (war, violence, death, etc.) coming from a less orthodox point of view, and, equally as important, present stories considered more ‘trivial’, day-to-day, and positive (small successes, heartwarming stories, etc.), particularly as they relate to the Arab and Muslim communities, to ensure that a plethora of views are included and that the ideological work being done by the summation of these views is a healthy distribution, rather than uniformly negative or biased.  We know that this is no simple task, and in many regards we may come up short, but we hope to present you with new perspectives, ideas, and inspiration to challenge your world-view and seek to update your own internalizations to be more complex, diverse, and, most importantly, accurate.  We thank you for visiting our site.



Devin Riley

Brett Leach

Rayyan Sami

Rahul Ramachandran