Wars Without Heroes

By Iftekhar A. Khan

January 23, 2010 "
Information Clearing House "Pakistan -- The war in Iraq has entered its seventh year and in Afghanistan its ninth year yet both imperialist wars have so far failed to produce any ‘war heroes’ to extol. During the Second World War, one of the Royal Air Force ace pilots prided in shooting down six Axis powers fighter planes in one dogfight and was awarded an appropriate gallantry award; no such heroic deeds by the coalition forces have come to fore in Iraq and Afghanistan. As both Muslim countries have neither regular armies nor air forces to offer any modicum of resistance against the massive onslaught of US-led NATO forces, there’re no tales of heroism related to Western troops. These forces only pick up their dead and grievously wounded soldiers to ship them back home. The dead are given a quiet burial without eulogising their achievements in the battlefield.

In fact, to portray the nation as humane and civilised, US has banned showing the pictures and footage of dead heroes reaching home in body bags. Does it depict West’s guilt instead of pride in waging unprovoked, unjustified wars against an invisible enemy? Otherwise, why would the two imperialist powers downplay their heroes? Even the wounded soldiers grumble about maltreatment by the civilians.

Former British chief of general staff, Gen Richard Dannit, complained that retuning soldiers often felt ‘devalued’ with sense of alienation measured in alcohol, drug addiction, divorce, suicide and imprisonment. Sometimes the civilians mock the returning soldiers. Now there’s stark difference between a national war and a corporate war. National wars enjoy the support of the majority of their population; corporate wars are driven by the naked greed of military hardware manufacturers, oil corporations, security companies, and entities that profit from massacring innocent men, women and children of the weaker nations. The corporate wars are ventures in which politicians particularly in the US democratic system, who decide to launch wars, are indebted to corporations which donate funds for their election campaigns. Were such sleazy donations prohibited, the war scenario would change, sanity would prevail, and victimised nations spared the bloodbath.

But peace doesn’t seem at hand in the near future despite President Obama’s intention to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2011. On one hand he intends to withdraw while on the other he has asked the Congress for an additional $33 billion to finance wars in Iraq and Afghanistan besides the whopping $708 billion for defence next year. And the Pentagon urgently wants to acquire more Predator and Reaper drones for surveillance and attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan to go on until 2013 – one reason why Richard Holbrook recently dismissed offhand the possibility of ending drone flights that cause slaughter of innocent people in the tribal areas. It’s well known that CIA operates the drone flights. So it’s a covert war being fought against an undefined enemy, call it counterinsurgency, counterterrorism or whatever. There’s no dearth of misleading names attached to the war, but at the bottom it remains a war of occupation by the foreign troops and war of freedom by the Afghan people whose land has been occupied. In other words, Afghans are refuges in their own territory.

Therefore, these wars will not produce heroes. Can a CIA operative who pushes the joystick button to launch hellfire missiles by a Predator or a Reaper drone to kill mostly innocent people in mud hamlets in FATA be called a war hero? If such an operator is killed, as were the seven in Khost recently, how would he be eulogised; how would his requiem sound like? Similarly, if Worldwide XE mercenaries known as the defence contractors, whose strength in Afghanistan exceeds regular US troops, are killed, how would they be honoured with medals of valour? Perhaps time has come when, instead of uniformed soldiers being decorated for gallantry, nameless, faceless operators of intelligence agencies will embellish the medals of honour on their chests. Even the drones could lay claim to gallantry awards.


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