Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)
If anyone out there needed more proof that all is lost in Afghanistan, it now appears that a smoking gun has finally been located at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the birthplace of the counterinsurgency strategy being used there, the same strategy that is proving to be a complete and total failure. While the Pentagon refuses to say much, a new handbook is being produced at Ft. Leavenworth that places much of the blame for the recent surge in insider attacks against our forces there on……our forces. Yes, you read that correctly. The major thrust of this handbook is to explain to the troops on the ground that “cultural insensitivity” on their part is a major factor in these coldblooded murders and if the troops fully grasp this clash of cultures and refrain from any criticism of Afghan culture, this should greatly reduce coalition casualties at the hands of the very people they are trying so desperately to help. It should be noted at this point that 63 Americans have died so far in 2012 as a result of these attacks.
In fact, they have been going on for a number of years and coalition forces have been dying as a result. No one knows for sure how many soldiers have been killed in this manner since, for obvious reasons, the coalition did want to shine a bright light into this very dark place. When they increased dramatically two years ago, each attack was explained as an “isolated incident” and, while “tragic,” there was no reason for alarm. That excuse has now worn thin and the truth is it can no longer be ignored: the Afghan security forces are now at war with the coalition forces.
As a result, a new explanation had to be hastily prepared and rolled out, one which demonstrates that the leadership is taking this crisis seriously, but not serious enough to place the blame where it actually belongs. The handbook, which runs about 75 pages, instructs the troops to avoid any topic or subject that has the potential to offend the Afghans. Naturally, such a list has to be extensive since the Afghans are easily offended. Topics on the banned list include the Taliban, abuse of women, homosexuality, bestiality and pedophilia. These topics are considered “taboo” and discussing them is considered insensitive. If fact, any topic that has the potential to offend the sacred tenets of Islam must be avoided at all costs. In short, the troops must pretend that they have no values of their own worth defending, certainly not there. Standing up and speaking out for basic human rights concerning the brutal treatment of women and the rape of children is off the table. The risks of running afoul of cultural insensitivity is simply too great. Saying anything negative concerning the Taliban runs the risk of offending Islam since the Taliban practice a pure form of this religion and any such discussion could be viewed as disrespectful to Islam.
All of this brings up serious intellectual and philosophical questions that the Pentagon would rather not address. If explaining to the Afghans that abuse of women and children, practices that are universally condemned, is somehow offensive, then why are we still there? If we remain silent on such practices, then we are condoning them. If we refuse to speak out against the Taliban for fear of offending Islam, what message are we sending? That the Taliban and Islam are Siamese twins, sharing a single heart? If we go this far, we are dangerously close to admitting that the real enemy is Islam, since Islam condones all of these things. Treating women as property and abusing children is deeply ingrained in the Afghan culture, as well as widespread homosexuality. While not discussed openly, these practices are widely accepted. In fact, they make up a large part of Afghan culture.
Faced with the choice of blaming either a 7th century religion that recognizes no other belief system, and the forces working to make life better for all Afghans for these attacks, the American government made the politically correct decision; the troops were thrown under the bus.
After eleven years of war and over 2,100 Americans killed, it this what it has come to? Political correctness wrapping itself in the mantle of cultural sensitivity? The war in Afghanistan lost any relevance to America when we gave up on winning long ago. Now, having refused to clearly identify the enemy, we are placing the blame on our troops for their own deaths. What little morale they have left will disappear when this latest policy hits them. Aside from being intellectually dishonest, it is morally bankrupt. The blame for this travesty must be shared. It’s not enough to lay it all at the feet of this administration which has proven, over and over again, that any criticism of Islam will not be tolerated. While absolutely true, the real blame goes deeper than that. In the end, if this handbook actually sees the light of day and is issued to the troops, it’s our fault, all of us, because we have let it happen. Slowly, over time, we simply lost our way, with one failed policy morphing into another failed policy in a desperate attempt to make Afghanistan into something it has never been and never will be; a free, democratic and prosperous nation, all the while ignoring the fact that the iron grip of Islam will keep Afghanistan forever chained to the 7th century. Lacking the moral courage and intestinal fortitude to face this, it is now time to simply leave. Forget about the Afghans taking responsibility for their own security and forget all the hype about nation building. Put all that in the back of the bus and turn the lights out; it’s over.
About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police. As of 2012, this force totals 157,000. From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war. It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.
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