July 30, 2002
An irc conversation about the "War on Terror"

Wherein Kendall helps me shed some idiotic (yet altogether widespread) assumptions, and we discuss the public attitudes that allow the government to continue to mow down civilians (and kill them indirectly) in Afghanistan.

posted by dru in interview


dru: hmm, I got a semi-thoughtful letter about 'small peaces'

k: congrats

dru: but then he goes off on the "US didn't actually aim at civilians" line re: War On Terror :/

k: yeah, well, sure we did

k: how can you AC-130 a wedding party and say that's not aiming at civilians?

dru: yeah. I've had the discussion often enough that I might write an article about how things are actually *not* getting better in Afghanistan, and that our explicit policy is to terrorize people until they rise up against the Taliban (who are replaced with.. an even worse regime!)

dru: not to mention the starving/lack of aid shipments that no one is reporting.

k: yeah, i've been focusing on news stuff that shows Afghanistan is not better in the Weekly Reviews

dru: and the 800 civ. casualties number thats going around is way low.

dru: I should check out how they figured that number.

k: global exchange did it

k: and it's a *partial* number

k: i.e., it's going to go up

k: they just reported preliminary findings

k: and, it's a different reckoning than the other guy is doing

k: it's not civilians killed, it's civilians killed in bombing raids, etc.

dru: yeah. it's just that given that afghanis bury their dead before sundown, and the pentagon bought out all the satellite photos... which is in itself totally evil, imo

dru: ah. so deaths as a result of no food or medical treatment could be *way* higher.

k: well, they certainly are higher

k: i.e., the global exchange report is very specific

k: basically, trying to figure out the cost of relying on Northern Alliance intelligence as the basis of aerial attacks, as opposed to putting our 'heroic soliders' on the ground to find out what's really happening

dru: it also makes me ill that Time did their huge reporton civ casualties 4 months after it could have made a difference.

dru: ah. I definitely need to check that out.

k: well, don't be too ill, since it would never have made any difference whatever.

dru: none?

k: no

k: i don't think it would make an iota of difference

dru: I would have thought that there would be a *bit* more pressure to change tactics, if not lay off on weddings, with *some* changes.

dru: but maybe not :/

k: pressure from whom?

k: the white house?! hehe. that's funny.

k: congress?! equally unlikely.

k: the 'american people' -- are you serious?

dru: yeah, the american people is what I was thinking.

k: well, has there been *any* measurable response from 'the american people' since the Time thing came out?

k: any that's made a smidge of policy difference?

spearce: wtf are we talking about?

dru: spearce: US gunships mowing people down at a wedding in afghanistan.

k: *on purpose*

spearce: youch.

spearce: i remember reading about the attack, but not that it was on purpose.

k: and whether enough or the right kind of 'american people' give a shit about that such that it might make any policy difference whatever.

k: UH!!!!


k: How do you ACCIDENTALLY shoot up a wedding party with the most advanced helicopter gunship ever made?!

spearce: americans in general don't care what goes on, so long as the can purchase a barney doll for their child.

k: please, tell me, I'd love to know.

spearce: get told bin laden is at that party.

spearce: and to shoot anyway.

k: right, which is as good an example of an intentional act as I can imagine.

k: "hey, the Evil One is at the wedding party over at Habib's house!"

k: "Ooh, cool, let's blow the hell out of it!"

spearce laughs

k: -- where's the accident?

spearce: or they aimed at habib's neighebor, and missed by a few feet.

spearce: as in the pilot/gunner shouldn't have been flying that day.

k: nonsense

k: you out-nonsense even the pentagon w/ such a suggestion!

spearce: i think your right, its hard to shoot at a wedding party and not have it be on purpose.

k: the attack lasted for *hours*

k: basically destroyed an entire village

k: how is this an accident?

spearce: only because our great leaders say it is.

spearce: because they can't/don't want to admit that they (most likely) ordered the strike.

k: in other words, it wasn't at all.

spearce: yea, i think i have to agree with you.

spearce has to go purchase a barney doll now.

k: so, dru, do you really think the Time report being a few months earlier would matter?

dru: yeah, but I can't think of any precedent that would lead to that belief, so I guess I'm being naive.

k: hmm

k: haven't there been many reports of 'collateral damage' deaths?


k: in fact, I think it's worse than that: I think most Americans *like* it.

dru: But for there even to be the possibility of any kind of public outrage/criticism, the information would have to be there.

k: along the same lines that most of them *enjoy* hearing the news of a person executed by the state.

dru: I suspect you're right. I just really don't want to believe it.

k: well, re: information having to be there...

k: I don't think that's the case at all.

k: A truly peace-loving people would have raised holy hell *before* we started military operations in Afgh.

k: you don't need specific information of collateral damage to know that war == innocent deaths

dru: true, true.

k: it's axiomatic

k: as everyone knows full well

k: here's an antecedent... My Lai massacre

k: turned almost *no one* against the Vietnam War

dru: yeah. I was just thinking of that.

k: killing technologically inferior, often defenseless non-white people is an old and honored American tradition

k: sad but true

k: there are really only two possibilities: we don't *know* about it, or we like it

dru: I was under the impression that there *are* americans who object to killing folks, just that they are systematically ignored/glossed over.

k: well, there's a third, we know, don't like it, but live in such an authoritarian society that our knowing and disapproving is impotent.

k: sure, sure.

k: I mean, *I* object!

k: You do, Niel does, maybe Shawn does...

dru: or we're just used to killing brown people every few years.

k: but we're very very outnumbered, clearly

spearce: or a 4th, we don't know it, if we did know about it, its not us, so who gives a shit, and we live in such an authoritarian society that going against the gov't is very, very bad idea.

k: "it's not us, so who gives a shit" -- indistinguishable from *liking* it, in practical terms

dru: I think that most people rationalize: america is fundamentally benevolent, so what we're doing is clearly *helping* afghanis, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, which is neatly ignored or further rationalized.

k: well, that's fine, dru

k: that's the Mass Psychosis thesis, and it fits the evidence too

k: it's no more flattering than my Mass Evil thesis

spearce: i don't like the idea of anyone killing anybody, let alone in senseless massacres, but i don't know about it usually.

k: maybe a bit

k: that's total crap, shawn

spearce: heh, i know.

k: that's maybe the most cravenly position of all!

dru: the biggest popular myth about afghanistan: all the women don't wear bhurkas now, and everyone is going to school.

spearce: they aren't all in school? i thought every man, woman and child could go to school now.

dru: or slowly rebuilding, or some bullshit.

dru: that's the argument I hear most often, anyway.

k: that's not an argument. it's a fantasy.

dru: not flattering, sure, but a bit more subtle than explicitly *liking it*, I think.

k: more subtle? maybe.

k: i think it's 6 of one, half a dozen...

dru: yep.

k: the only way the war o'terror will end is when corporate amerika decides it's too expensive

k: at least, if the vietnam war is any guide

dru: I can understand it, because I remember more or less cheering for american troops during gulf war I (I was 12, and convinced that Saddam was evil and that what we were liberating or some shit). It's the default position, served up. You have to actually think about things to get to any other conclusion, which most people (myself included, far too often) don't do :/

k: eh

k: you were 12

k: of course, that's just about where most american's stop maturing vis-a-vis citizenship

k: and there's very little in mass culture to challenge that view

dru: which makes easy to accept; or hard to question.