I don’t know that anything has the potential to galvanize public opinion on the forgotten war in Afghanistan. But if there’s anything out there, the ambush of nine boys collecting firewood would qualify. Via MaddowBlog, here’s the revolting account.
The only survivor, Hemad, 11, said his mother had told him to go out with other boys to collect firewood because “the weather is very cold now.”
“We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw the helicopters come,” said Hemad, who, like many Afghans, has only one name. “There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting. They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”
The tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”
This is just appalling. And very few people out there can even explain the purpose of the war in Afghanistan, at least not without eliciting laughter. We’re shooting young boys we mistake for insurgents in order to ensure the 100 Al Qaeda members believed to still be in the country don’t create a safe haven for themselves. And we’re partnering with a government we know to be hopelessly corrupt, building an army we know to be strung out on drugs, at a cost that the Afghan economy cannot possibly support. Where is the logic in that?
What’s interesting is that the Democratic grassroots has at least started to mobilize on this issue, at a very official level:
The Democratic National Committee—whose leader, after all, is President Barack Obama—passed a resolution at last weekend’s Washington, DC, conference calling for an acceleration of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan more rapidly than the president’s current 2014 timeline. The policy resolution demands a “swift withdrawal” of troops and contractors starting with a “significant and sizeable reduction [of troops] no later than July 2011.”
The resolution may not be a game-changer, but certainly a changes the shape of the months ahead, when war funding and exit strategies are debated in Congress and Obama announces how many troops he will “begin” withdrawing this July.
The goal of Democrats like Rep. Barbara Lee is to “change the president’s political calculus” and encourage his running on a 2012 platform promise of ending two wars – instead of the specter of trillion-dollar quagmires. Gen. Petraeus and national security hawks like John Nagl are lobbying for Obama to keep American combat troops in Afghanistan through 2014 or beyond. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has staked out a position supporting the generals.
This was a party resolution in opposition to a sitting President, which the White House allowed to go forward after initial objections. It won the early support of Donna Brazile, of all people. Nobody spoke to oppose the final version.
I know Barbara Lee basically drove this through the DNC meeting. It has become a major issue in the race to replace Jane Harman in the CA-36 special election, with Secretary of State Debra Bowen mobilizing support for the DNC resolution as part of her first messages to the constituents she wants to lead.
I’m not so optimistic, ultimately. American wars in the 21st century have a habit of just lingering. And the nine boys murdered for no reason will probably end up a one-day story, sadly. But there’s little doubt in my mind that national politicians staking out a position of ending counter-productive wars will be rewarded.