Few days ago, a brother reminded me of the state of the world by sending me the outrageous videos of the so-called kill team. In one of them, two Afghans under a tree were targeted and blown up by an air strike. While one of the two companions was immediately killed, the second managed to run a few meters before being shot down. The clip was accompanied by injurious comments from the US soldiers and a rock song. I was not paying attention to the music until a term caught my ears and made me realise that the lyrics were actually in French. As the soldiers were shooting and shouting, the singer was asking in a derogatory manner:
“Do we have to be so stupid?”
My first reaction was:
“These people are real fools. They are insulting themselves and they don’t even know it”.
But then I started to think and I wondered why do WE have to be so stupid? Why are we shocked by these scenes? Of course, hearing is not like seeing. The vision of live murders and mutilated corpses shakes the hearts but is there anything else to expect from that kind of invasion? Indeed, these behaviours are sadly typical of colonial wars. One simply needs to look back in history to understand that. For example, in the 50’s-60’s, very similar scenes were recorded by French soldiers during the Algerian war of independence. Villagers with their hands up could be seen being shot in cold blood. The “death squadrons” were known to cut fingers, ears and noses as “souvenirs”. It is also known that torture was widely used. Of course, it was said that it was only acts perpetrated by isolated groups of individuals without the knowledge of their hierarchy, but it is now recognised that they operated at least with their tacit consent. Even if it might not be the case in Afghanistan, the truth is that these conducts are nothing but a reflection of the nature of this war. These soldiers are simply following the steps of a government that normalised extra-judicial killings, promoted extra-judicial detention and legalised torture. It is not to belittle the individual responsibilities of soldiers but we should not forget what rendered their actions possible. We should not complain about the fruit without looking at the tree, especially if we do not take care of the tree...
As for us, I pray that our emotion will not be as short as it was intense. I hope that we will not forget these images just like we forgot Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib...
Written by Arnaud Mafille, a Cageprisoners interning caseworker for the French speaking world.