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The Jirga Medal of Honor
By Ralph Nader
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is testing so much futuristic detect and destroy weaponry
that it can be called the most advanced all-seeing invasion in military history. From
blanket satellite surveillance to soldiers' infra-red vision to the remotely guided
photographing, killer drones to the latest fused ground-based imagery and electronic
signal intercepts, the age of robotic land, sea, and air weaponry is at hand.
U.S. and NATO soldiers and contractors greatly outnumber the Taliban, whose
sandals and weapons are from the past century. Still, with the most sophisticated
arsenals ever deployed, why are U.S. generals saying that less than 30,000 Taliban
fighters, for almost a decade, have fought the U.S. led forces to a draw?
Perhaps one answer can be drawn from a ceremony that could be happening in
various places in that tormented country. That is, a Jirga of elders awarding a young
fighter the Jirga medal of honor for courage on the battlefield, which often happens to
be their village or valley.
The chief elder rose to address a wise circle of villagers. "Today we are presenting
our beloved Mursi with the revered Jirga medal of honor for courage beyond the call
of duty in rescuing seven of his brother defenders from almost certain destruction.
The invaders had surrounded our young brothers at night in the great Helmand gully
with their snipers, grenade-launchers and helicopter gunships.
It looked like the end. Until Mursi started a very smoky fire and diverted the enemy
with a firebomb that startled several donkeys into braying loudly. In the few seconds
absorbed by diverting the foreigners who directed their firepower in that direction,
Mursi led his brothers, two of them wounded, through a large rock crevice and down
an incline that was hidden from view and into a cave covered with bush. For some
reason, the occupiers' night vision equipment was not working, thanks be to Allah.
The next morning, the enemy had gone away, probably to start another deadly attack
elsewhere on our people. Before the Jirga awards you this ancient symbol of
resistance, Mursi, in the form of a sculptured shield made of a rare wood, will you say
a few words to your tribe?"
Mursi, a thin as a rail twenty year old youth, rose.
"I accept this great honor on behalf of my brothers who escaped with their lives that
terrible night in Helmand. I was very scared. The enemy has everything and we have
nothing. They have planes, helicopters, artillery, many soldiers with equipment that
resists bullets, sees in the dark and provides them with food, water and medicine. We
only have our old rifles, some grenades and explosives. They can see us all the way
from America on screens sitting in cool rooms where they can press buttons and wipe
us out without our seeing or hearing anything coming at us. We are all so terrified.
Especially the children.
We wonder why they are doing this to us? We never threatened them. They threaten
everyone with their bases, ships, planes and missiles. I hear that the foreign soldiers
ask themselves why are they here, what are they doing here and for what? But they
are paid well to be here, destroying our country year after year, though they boast
about building some bridges and digging some water wells. No thank you."
"Go back to your families, you will never win because we are fighting to repel you
invaders from our ancient tribal lands, our homes,. Fighting to expel the invaders is
stronger and more righteous than your weapons and all your military wealth. Even if
many of us lose our lives, we will prevail one day. For we will have heaven and they
will have hell."
A long knowing silence followed. A rooster crowed in the distance. The chief elder
then slowly handed the medal to their brave hero.
Can the most militarily powerful country in the world, many of whose people and
soldiers are opposed or have serious doubts about why we are continuing to pursue
these senseless undeclared wars of aggression that create more hatred and
enemies, look with empathy at what those people, whom we are pummeling, are going
through? Will the Pentagon, which doesn't estimate civilian casualties, let its officials
speak publically about the millions of such casualties--deceased, injured and
sick--that have afflicted innocent Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis?
Will our current crop of political candidates for Congress and the Presidency ever
reflect on the wise words of our past Generals--Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall
and earlier Smedley Butler--about the folly and gore, not the glory of war?
The eighteenth century words of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, rings so true. He
And would some Power the small gift give us.
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us...