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Who are the enemy?

This morning on Radio 4's Today programme, I heard an American officer exhort his men in Afghanistan by saying "If you see someone who deserves to die, kill him". This was greeted by a noise I can only describe as baas of agreement from his marines, not that I am comparing them to sheep in any way of course. Sheep don't kill their enemies.

So who do we, the 'allies' in foreign theatres of operation, regard as 'the enemy'? 'The Taliban' I hear you cry. So who are the Taliban? 'Insurgents' you insist. This suggests that in some way we have come to justify these enemies as somehow different not only from us, but also from the ordinary people of Afghanistan. Troublemakers who have left their homelands to train as terrorists in order to kill infidels. We must kill them before they kill us! And if children or other innocents get in the way, it's the fault of insurgents 'using them as shields'. It's their fault for fighting back. If only they'd throw down their guns and do what we tell them to do. Can't they see we only want peace?.....

Well perhaps we're kidding ourselves, and causing untold misery in the process (on both sides).

How on earth can a soldier decide who is an enemy, and who is a chap wandering around in the distance? "Kill him anyway! Why take a risk with the lives of troops? Collateral damage is a fact of life. We try to limit the killing of innocents, but in war, people get hurt. That's the way it is. We're at war."

OK, let's turn this around. There are heavily armed foreign troops all over Surrey or New Hampshire. Our governments are penniless (can't happen....?!?) and can't afford to 'do the job themselves'. So to stay in power they're happy to let someone else's troops into our country to protect their government, fairly elected or otherwise.

Suppose these 'peace-keeping' soldiers (let's pretend they're Chinese seeking to stop 'terrorists' being trained in the UK and USA to kill Chinese citizens around the world), who don't speak English, together with their tanks, drones, strike aircraft and helicopters, 'accidentally' kill your mother, your wife or your children. "Oops. Sorry, but they could have been harbouring gunmen". Why do we assume the people in Afghanistan are so different from us? We'd very quickly become outraged. I've never hurt anyone in my life, but even I would find a gun to stop any more 'collateral damage' to protect my family. I'd want these foreigners out of my country, and I'd want to get rid of the bastards who let them in to protect their own corrupt skins. If we win, I'd be a hero of the resistance. If we lose and while we fight back (and there would have to be the eradication of every one of us for a result to be finally declared), I'm a terrorist. An insurgent.

Fuck. I'm the enemy.

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