Afghanistan : Telling the Wolves from the Sheep

It all started in Rhode Island…
They shoot Americans, don’t they?

To expect that they won’t be shot at is an example of that sort of American innocence that has worn awfully thin after centuries of American invasions of other countries.

By Jonah Raskin / The Rag Blog / February 22, 2010

Near the end of the 17th century, Roger Williams — the founder of Rhode Island — complained to the Governor of Massachusetts that Indians were shooting English colonists during a brutal military clash that has come to be known as King Philip’s War. The Indians were also using guerrilla warfare, Williams explained; they lured the English into woods and swamps and attacked them there with “fire, smoke and bullets.”

Williams was shocked and outraged. America as an offshoot of Europe was just beginning to wear breeches and so perhaps Williams might be excused for his inability to see that the English had invaded the continent, and that the indigenous inhabitants did not, on the whole, enjoy the invasion. So they used whatever weapons they had at hand: bows, arrows, guns, bullets, and fire, to repel the invaders.

Williams expressed his views in 1675 — 375 years ago. That was near the start of “native” resistance — military, cultural, and diplomatic — to colonizers and empire builders on the continent of North America. Now, 375 years later, it seems incredible for Americans to be shocked once again that all around the world, and especially in Afghanistan right now, soldiers from “native” populations are shooting at American troops.

They are not only shooting at American troops. They are also taking close aim at American troops, and trying to kill them, as reported in a February 17, 2010 article by C. J. Chivers, entitled “Snipers Imperil U.S.-led Forces in Afghan Offensive” that was published in The New York Times.

Oh, dear me, Taliban soldiers aiming at U.S. troops. “Five marines and two Afghan soldiers have been struck here in recent days by bullets fired at long range,” Chivers wrote. “Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.” My, my, my, what will the Taliban fighters think of next? Imagine that, using Russian-made machine guns — left perhaps years ago by fleeing Russian troops unable to subdue the Taliban.

Americans have long had what might be called a “perception problem.” For hundreds of years, Americans have viewed themselves as liberators, and as fighters for freedom. They have believed that they were overturning tyrannical regimes and bringing democracy to the rest of the world.

Granted, in World War II, Americans helped to defeat Nazi Germany, and free Europeans from fascism. That was one of the very few times that American troops were welcomed with open arms and applauded — by the French, for example, and by Jews in concentration camps. But ever since then, time and time again, American troops — whether in Korea or Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan — have been shot at and killed with the aim of driving them out of those countries. The foes have often been sharpshooters and snipers. That is what happens in war, and as William T. Sherman observed at the time of the American Civil War, “War is hell.”

I wish it were not hell. I wish wars were picnics. I wish that American troops did not die or have to die. I want all troops to come home safely. But I also know my history. I know that American troops have been shot at again and again in countries all over the world. To expect that they won’t be shot at is an example of that sort of American innocence that has worn awfully thin after centuries of American invasions of other countries. That American innocence is now a deadly infection, and a contagious disease.

The story is the same over and over again. It is in many ways the same story that unfolded in New England in the 17th century, when the English colonists battled the Indians, and the Indians battled back. Roger Williams ought to have known better. He should have understood that once the English lied to the Indians, kidnapped them, took their land and robbed them of their rights and freedoms they would meet with armed resistance. Even Indians who had used bows and arrows learned to use muskets and to take deadly aim.

To expect that the people of Afghanistan will greet the Americans with open arms is delusional. It does this country and our soldiers and citizens a grievous harm. The New York Times might give the reporter C.J. Chives the assignment of writing a story about why Taliban snipers are shooting bullets at U.S. Marines and killing them.

We know they are. We know where, when, how, and with what. Tell us why please. Perhaps if we understood their reasons we might be able to extricate ourselves from the myth of our own innocence that condemns us to send soldiers to countries around the world where they are killed.

In 1675, when King Philip’s forces engaged in guerrilla warfare with the colonists, Roger Williams wrote, “it is not possible at present to keep peace with these barbarous men of blood.” He added that they “are as justly to be repelled and subdued as wolves that assault the sheep.”

American military commanders tend to see the Taliban in a similar way, as “barbarous men of blood” who must “be repelled and subdued as wolves that assault the sheep.” But who are the real sheep and who are the real wolves? Who are the wolves in sheep’s clothing? And who are the sheep in wolves’s clothing?

Perhaps The New York Times and its reporter C. J. Chivers might answer those thorny questions, and not divide the world all-too neatly into innocent sheep and guilty wolves.

[Jonah Raskin teaches media at Sonoma State University and is the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California and The Mythology of Imperialism.]

The Rag Blog

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6 Responses to Afghanistan : Telling the Wolves from the Sheep

  1. My sister, and her husband, both Air Force Sergeants, related something that happened in Kurdistan, in the Northern No-Fly Zone a couple of years before the actual invas… ooops “Liberation, yeah, that’s the ticket..

    A USAF Pilot blew away a flock of sheep and consequently a Kurdish Shepherd, maybe more, can’t be sure because the Pilot, with all his hi-tech imaging and targeting doodads and froo-frahs and zu-zus Couldn’t Tell The Difference between Humans and Sheep.

    My Sergeant Sister and husband were LAUGHING about it. Ha ha ha, we murdered a person we were supposed to be protecting and think it’s goddamn hilarious!

    The Pentagoons and later, George W Bush, made a statement that there were NO instances of USAF pilots firing on ground targets unless they were under attack from those “targets”.

    Miss Sergeant made the mistake of telling ME this. OOPS. The joke was that the pilot was “Feeling kind of Sheepish because he was having a “Baaaaaddd day”.

    They still, apparently, refuse to believe that Hell-Fire missiles and the Vulcan motorized 50 caliber Gatling guns then standard on their aircraft, which the Air Force boasts will kill everything within a certain zone, somehow didn’t kill the inevitable Kurdish Shepherd. Or Shepherds. They didn’t even mention that guy or those guys. They insist that no humans died in the attack, even though the whole premise of the narrative was that The Pilot Couldn’t Tell The Difference Between Humans And Sheep.

    And that Domestic Sheep are never without their shepherds. We bred all the Wild Smart out of them about 40 centuries ago. They can’t even give birth without human intervention, they’re that damn dumb.

    For the record, I know my sister from the day they brought me home from the hospital and she hit me with a toy because I wasn’t playing with her.

    She might make mistakes but she doesn’t lie to me, especially not when boasting,

    George Bush lies so consistently that there’s no possibly way an intelligent rational sentient being could ever take anything he says as valid.

    The Pentagon is even (gasp) Worse than Bush.

  2. From Tolstoy, Famed Russian Anarchist:
    “Why, they’re shooting at me… ME, the one everybody LOVES!”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like your sister and brother-in-law are ALSO sheep. You’ve got my sympathies.

  4. The authors premise seems quite odd. Does he really think that Americans are shocked that our troops are shot at? We have all mourned for the thousands that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tens of thousands wounded. We have seen our marines and soldiers tortured and hung from bridges, decapitated, shot, blown-up and burned to death.

    I cant think of any significant portion of US adults that are surprised by the carnage that happens in a war. In fact the only thing that surprises me is Dr Raskin’s supposition that Americans are surprised.

  5. Brother Jonah says:

    Surprised that they’re not welcomed as liberators, like the Propagandists suggest. Defining people who defend their own homes, their own towns, the Afghan and Iraqi versions of counties and states seems more the premise. The FAKE Surprise of the War-Masters. It’s their job to distort facts, facts would get in the way of them doing their “duty”.

    The Minutemen, 1774 and Today, hid and hide out among the Civilian Populace, thus, we’re being used by them as “Human Shields”.

    At least by the reasoning that defines the Taliban as “insurgents” in their own country. Insurgent is a word the describes the tide Coming In, not the people already there.

    If anybody has the label of Insurgent applied to them by their actions it would have to be NATO. Or in the case of Iraq, the Koalition of the Killing.

    The Mainstream Media including DumFox have a long history of defining anybody who resists Our Noble Efforts At Liberation as being “Terrorists” and “insurgents”. They did it in Korea and VietNam and Algeria long before the current wave of “liberations” in what’s mistakenly called Arab Lands (Afghanistan and Pakistan aren’t Arabic, nor is Iran)

  6. Not R says:

    Do you know the source of this picture? I found several copies around the Web, but none with any attribution. Thanks!

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