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Dying from Green on Blue

U.S. soldierDo you ever wonder about the final thoughts of a U.S. soldier who has just been shot by one of his compatriots in the Afghan army? After all, his killer is one of the guys he’s been training and supporting in the Pentagon’s 12-year project to “rebuild Afghanistan.” The GI turns his back, finds himself riddled with bullets from a gun fired by the guy he armed and trusted a few minutes before, and realizes that he’s now dying.

The so-called green-on-blue killings have become one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, especially given the difficulty of guarding against the very people the troops are supposed to be training and supporting. It seems to me that it’s a fairly ignominious way for a U.S. soldier to die.

Interestingly, the green-on-blue killings provide an insight into U.S. foreign policy. While U.S. officials would no doubt love to claim that such killings are motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” which was what U.S. officials claimed about 9/11, the facts show otherwise. It’s not America’s “freedom and values” that drive the green-on-blue killers. It’s the fact that foreign troops are occupying their land.

An interesting example is found in an article published on January 3 by the New York Times, entitled “An Afghan Soldier’s Journey From Ally to Enemy of America.” The article detailed the story of a 22-year-old Afghan soldier named Mahmood, who opened fire on his American trainers, killing one and injuring another. He then escaped to join the Taliban, which celebrated his exploits with an online video.

An interesting aspect of the article was that it was partly based on statements made by Mahmood after he had escaped to the Taliban. In the statements, there was nothing said about hating America for its “freedom and values.”

Instead, according to the Times, in an online video Mahmood calmly explained, “I opened fire on three Americans who were sitting together. The reason I killed them is because they have occupied our country. They are the enemies of our religion and they kill our innocent people.”

The Times added: “Listening to villagers, Mr. Mahmood became convinced that the foreigners had killed too many Afghans and insulted the Prophet Muhammad too many times. He wanted to be driving them out, not helping them stay. The villagers’ stories ‘strengthened my desire to kill Americans with my own fingers,’ he said.” He added, “I have intimate friends in the army who have the same opinion I do. We used to sit and share our hearts’ tales.”

According to an unidentified senior coalition officer, “A great percentage of the insider attacks have the same enemy narrative — the narrative that the infidels have to be driven out — somewhere inside of them, but they aren’t directed by the enemy.”

According to the Times, “Many senior coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding that after nearly 12 years of war, the view of foreigners held by many Afghans has come to mirror that of the Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred, and some will find a reason to act on those feelings.”

First Sgt. Joseph Hissong, an American who survived an insider attack that killed two men in his unit, observed, “It’s a game changer on all levels.”

Part of the problem, of course, is how the U.S. government rebuilds a country. The first thing it does is establish, train, and fortify a powerful standing army. That’s not surprising given that it considers an enormous and powerful military establishment to be an essential prerequisite for maintaining “order and stability” in a country. (The second thing it does is confiscate guns from the private sector.)

But what happens when American soldiers can no longer trust the people they are arming, training, and fortifying? What happens when there is a good chance that an Afghan soldier is going to fire bullets into the back of the American soldier who has just handed him a weapon and taught him how to shoot it?

For 12 years, pro-war and pro-occupation Americans have repeatedly told us how much they “support the troops.” Part of their “support,” of course, involves never questioning the U.S. government’s decision to keep them in Afghanistan. The time has come for the pro-war, pro-occupation crowd to change its tune and join up with those of us who have long called for immediately bringing the troops home.

What does a dying American soldier think about who’s just been shot by the Afghan soldier who he armed, trained, supported, and trusted? One possibility is: “I joined the military to protect America, and here I am in Afghanistan dying for nothing.”

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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