It seems like it was just yesterday that we were talking here about the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" and how America has some unresolved issues with torture. OK, actually it was Sunday -- but my point quite simply was that as long as the United States and its leaders (not to mention Hollywood) seem conflicted about the immoral practices unleashed during the Bush-Cheney years, America will never fully get out the human stain that is torture.
But also this: When we debate the torture issue, we tend to focus on the practice of waterboarding several high-level suspects. But the unholy practices let loose to preserve a national-security state run amok were much broader, from the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the prisoner deaths at Bagram to our current undeclared drone wars.
The word is that President Obama banned torture. So what are we to make of this?
"The Afghan government has ordered US special forces to leave one of Afghanistan's most restive provinces, Maidan Wardak, after receiving reports from local officials claiming that the elite units had been involved in the torture and disappearance of Afghan civilians. . . .
"The provincial governor and other officials from Maidan Wardak presented evidence against US forces at the national security council meeting. The presidential palace later issued a statement saying: 'After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.
"'A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge,' the statement added" . . . .
As but one illustrative example: in 2010, as I wrote at the time, US forces in the Paktia Province, after surrounding a home where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two male civilians (government officials) who exited the house in order to inquire why they had been surrounded, and then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager). When local villagers loudly complained, the Pentagon lied about what happened, claiming that the dead males were "insurgents" or terrorists; the bodies of the three women had been found by US forces bound and gagged inside the home, and suggested that the women had already been killed by the time the US had arrived, likely the victim of "honor killings" by the Taliban militants killed in the attack. US media outlets, needless to say, mindlessly recited the US government's claims (CNN: "Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan 'honor killing'"), but the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that its Special Forces had killed the women and then covered-up and lied about what happened.
My position on these kind of reports has been pretty consistent. While soldiers are accountable for their individual actions, the real takeway is... why are American leaders putting troops into this position in the first place? We all know that in the fog of violence and revenge that is war, horrific things happen. Which is why war should be a last resort. In 2013, a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks and two years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, why are American troops waging war in a place called Maidan Wardak, a place that neither you nor I could find on a map? If the administration truly wants to save American lives, it should stop throwing billions more into this murky quagmire and fix our 70,000 deficient bridges are home. The biggest war crime, frankly, is that we're still at war.
Stop the war now.