All this was given added piquancy when General Stanley McChrystal fell on his own sword in front of Barack Obama this week. I don’t like generals, but I had a smidgen of sympathy for this arrogant man. McChrystal’s contempt for the inept Richard Holbrooke – the “Afpak” envoy (what a yuk title) who hourly awaits his own dismissal – at least bears the merit of truth.
What was more instructive, however, was Obama’s behaviour. Every month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaps humiliation and insult upon the impotent and frightened Obama, who responds by clucking his tongue and then swearing further lifelong fidelity to Israel. But the moment his top man in Afghanistan tells a few home truths about his boss, Obama throws a hissy fit and fires him. McChrystal would obviously have done much better in the Israeli army.
Ironically, one of McChrystal’s last acts was to pull his men out of the Korangal Valley and close down OP Restrepo. Indeed, alJazeera’s reporter managed to enter the abandoned outpost a few days ago with a bunch of leering Taliban – who joyfully discovered that the Americans had left them plenty of spare ammo. So much for the sacrifice of the Second Platoon and the far greater suffering of the Afghan villagers whom they blasted away in the interests of the “war on terror”.Yet Restrepo the film was impressive. Not just because of the fear of the soldiers – and the spectacular real-life battle scenes – but because of the graphic, terrible moments in the bombed village. One little, pain-filled girl stares with such incomprehension at her tormentors that you know that we have lost the war in Afghanistan.
I have to say that no Russian camera crew ever filmed the innocent victims of Brezhnev’s mad adventure in Afghanistan. If we as an audience are invited to sympathise with American soldiers, the film doesn’t attempt to spare us the truth. No Russian cinemagoer ever saw their own country’s Afghan victims, the children maimed by Russian landmines, the families murdered at Russian checkpoints, the villagers cut down in air strikes by the MIGs.
Something of the same sentiment goes for another Edinburgh movie, The Oath, an overlong but carefully researched film about Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden’s former driver and a long-time resident of Guantanamo, and his jihadist “friend” Abu Jandal (“Father of Death”). Here again, we suddenly see another side of brutal America: Hamdan’s US military defence council standing up in Sana’a before a sea of his client’s Yemeni relatives, outlining his case to free their man from Bush’s outrageous prison camp. The Arab questioners are polite and clearly respect the young American serviceman who has arrived in a dangerous city – for him, at least – to help one of bin Laden’s men.
How many Arab countries would appoint a government lawyer to defend an American held in an Arab prison – or talk to the American’s relatives in the United States? How many Arab countries would even debate the laws under which they imprison, torture and execute their prisoners? Did the Sana’a audience grasp this point? I think they did. Arabs know very well the corrupt and brutal nature of their dictators, just as they understand the folly of American power.
(by , Robert frisk)