The naked face of colonial attitude

This is what imperialist war does:

To the shock of President Hamid Karzai’s aides,Gen. David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday at the presidential palace that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting. . . .

"I was dizzy. My head was spinning," said one participant, referring to Petraeus’s remarks. "This was shocking. Would any father do this to his children? This is really absurd."[1]

The Washington Post story then goes on to try to demonstrate that Petraeus’ claims might have some basis in fact. And it is worth remembering that Afghan men have reportedly been extremely brutal to women.[2] But all this makes apparent a dehumanization process: by portraying Afghans as savages, we not only revive a traditional rationalization for colonization, we depict civilian deaths as justified. In essence, we are excusing war crimes by asserting that human beings are inhuman.

When we do this to their faces, they know that we have lost any claim to righteousness. And they are right.

  1. [1]Joshua Partlow, “Petraeus’s comments on coalition attack reportedly offend Karzai government,” Washington Post, February 21, 2011
  2. [2]Alissa J. Rubin, “For Afghan Wives, a Desperate, Fiery Way Out,” New York Times, November 7, 2010 “

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