The Accident of Birth
I am an American by birth, a proud American I must add. My youth included walking to school, playing Little League baseball, and doing pretty much anything that was within the lines of my parents’ boundaries. Children born anywhere should feel proud of their heritage, they should have cherished memories of growing up. And they should love their country.
Not caring as a child, but quite aware now, every four years our government has the opportunity to change leadership. When that happens, the transition is peaceful and relatively seamless.
Life is not idyllic in America, but for the most part it ain’t bad. This particular campaign season has had its quirks, for sure. In January 2017, however, a new president will pledge to defend and uphold the Constitution and that will be that. Millions of people will be ecstatic and nearly the same number will be disappointed. But the swearing in of the new president will happen and it will not provoke bloodshed or revolution.
That peaceful transition of government does not happen everywhere. Case in point: Afghanistan, a nation of coups d’etats.
Blood Will Have Blood
In 1973, Sardar Mohammad Daoud seized the presidency of Afghanistan in a coup. A vehement anti-communist, President Daoud himself was murdered in a coup in 1978. This overthrow was led by Nur Mohammed Taraki, head of the Afghan Communist Party, who also, predictably, assumed the presidency.
During Taraki’s short tenure Afghanistan signed a 20-year “friendship treaty” with the Soviet Union, by which increasing amounts of Russian military and economic assistance flowed into the country (http://www.history.com). Taraki’s embrace of communism and attempts at turning Afghanistan into a one-party state led to his death by coup in 1979. Afghanistan’s two parties–communist and anti-communist–fight to the death over their politics.
Russia sent troops to encourage even a modicum of order to the Afghan government and its people. Ten years later they left in a frustrating standoff of no progress (from the Russian point of view) and no inkling of a peaceful settlement. The Western press at the time called Afghanistan “Russia’s Vietnam.” Thousands died on both sides for their own cause and nothing changed.
The United States has been involved militarily in Afghanistan for well over a decade now, in many cases fighting the same people we armed to fight the Russians. What a silly, stupid cycle of violence. A generation has passed since Daoud’s coup. For the life of me I cannot understand the plight of these people. Why should an Afghani child be more afraid of his school house (if he has one) being struck by a drone than of having to clean the blackboards because he didn’t complete his math homework?
Children become adults. Adults have memories. Thirty-year-old Afghanis have lived through internal violence, the coups, as well as invasions/occupations by the USSR and the USA. Don’t these men and women deserve a shot at self-governance? After all these years, do they not deserve to live in peace?
America is not defending anything in Afghanistan, therefore we are the aggressors. If it is vengeance we sought after 9/11, have we not reached the point of comparable violence? Why is enough not enough? In a section of War Is a Lie, David Swanson writes: “Revenge is a primitive emotion, not a legal defense for war.”
If Swanson is right–and I believe he is–the time is long overdue for us to shed “primitive” emotions. We as a species need to evolve. The next generation of children worldwide and the generations after them deserve not our worst emotions but our best. They deserve peace.