Victory usually goes to the side with the highest dedication. Unfortunately for NATO, that side is the Taliban and al-Qaeda. If one dispenses with all the propaganda, the use of suicide attackers, whether they be bombers or insider turncoats, has objectively been a stunning success. The reality is that an opponent who is willing to die for his or her cause has a significant tactical advantage over a foreign army consisting of troops whose main priority is to survive their war zone tours.
NATO seems befuddled not only by its inability to counter the suicide attacker, but by its failure or refusal to even comprehend its foe. As a result NATO spokespersons revert back to a tired and discredited theme that suicide attackers are uneducated religious fanatics brainwashed in Madrassa schools in Pakistan by unscrupulous mullahs. The truth is that most suicide attackers are educated and apparently consider themselves dedicated patriots combating a foreign invader with the only weapon they have, which is themselves.
Two weeks ago it was announced that Tahir Ashrafi, the leader of the Pakistan Ulema (religious) Council, had formally endorsed the use of suicide bombers against American and NATO forces. He adopted the Taliban saying that, “suicide bombers are the atomic weapons of Muslims.” This ruling emphasizes that the suicide attackers represent mainstream Islam. It is the same with Christianity. In the Book of Judges 16:30, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines” and he proceeded to pull down a Philistine temple on himself and on the Philistine rulers. Samson is a hero of the Bible.
One of the difficulties that these attackers present to the West is that the most dedicated and courageous fighters seem to be on the other side. Just as with the Vietnam War, the enemy is dedicated to victory at all cost, while Afghan security forces seem less so.
An exception to this trend occurred on March 9, 2012 in a village in Khost Province. In a remarkable demonstration of courage, Afghan policeman Murad Khan reportedly ran up to and embraced a suicide bomber, absorbing much of the blast with his body. The incident was reported by CNN and the story then emerged to the world. This dramatic act of heroism resulted in no public statement by the hapless U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham or by NATO’s bewildered new commander General Joseph Dunford. Both officials should have immediately boarded a helicopter and flown to Khost to meet with Murad Khan’s family in order to herald his bravery and ensure that his family was being provided for. Every day the U.S. Embassy and NATO churn out reams of meaningless press releases and manufactured statistics. The tide of garbage produced is so great that the officials fail to grasp when an event occurs that truly merits a press release. Murad Khan represented everything that the West is attempting to build in Afghanistan, yet both Cunningham and Dunford seem oblivious to the situation on the ground. U.S. officials seem to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
The U.S. Embassy’s website is currently gushing over the visit of Michael H. Posner, one of a gaggle of Assistant Secretaries of State who come and go into Afghanistan each year. He arrived for a meaningless conference on “promoting shared democratic values.” Secretary Posner, speaking inside a heavily protected conference center, spoke about the “considerable progress” being achieved in Afghanistan. Secretary Posner’s refusal to tour the countryside belies his propaganda speech.
To U.S. and NATO diplomats hiding behind fortress walls in Kabul and elsewhere, the suicide attacker remains a mystery. These officials, who have no desire to die for Afghanistan and have no cause worth fighting for, seem unable to comprehend the motivation of those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause. The history of those willing to die for a cause is a long one. It dates back to the Spartan defense of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.; the siege of Masada in 73-74 A.D.; the defense of the Alamo in 1836; Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, the Viet Minh “death volunteers” who threw themselves at French defenses at Dien Bien Phu, and the Japanese Kamikaze attacks of 1944-45. In Japanese, “Kami: means “God.” God’s Wind was able to recruit more than 4,000 pilots who were successful in sinking up to 47 Allied ships, while damaging another 368, including battleships and aircraft carriers. It must have taken great skill and amazing courage to carry out those attacks. Just like today, the attacks were dismissed as the work of fanatics, rather than patriots.
We now know that the 9/11 hijackers were not religious fanatics, but were largely secular and were motivated by more complex factors. The problem for the American people is that they continue to be fed a diet of distortions. All overseas attacks are brushed off by U.S. officials as the work of one organization, al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The reality is that there is a growing and diverse list of groups opposed to the United States and this information is being concealed from the American public. The motivations for these attacks run the gamut, but a surprisingly large source of anti-Americanism is a response to secret arrests in the night, black U.S. prisons, torture, air strikes that hit the wrong targets, drone killings of innocent civilians and the continued U.S. support for brutal dictators, warlords and violent militias.
The U.S. Government is not battling adversaries overseas as much as it is inventing new enemies.
The suicide attackers, both bombers and those who infiltrate the security forces in order to attack within, are undermining the NATO war effort and are succeeding to a degree that NATO refuses to admit. The tactic has been by all accounts an amazing success. The reality is that one determined man or woman cannot easily be stopped by Western technology.
The answer to this crisis is to address the root causes of the suicide bomber. In order to do that, the West needs to cease smearing the bombers with a “fanatic” label and publicly recognize that the attackers consider themselves to be patriots fighting for (what in some instances are) just causes.
One depressing Western example is The New York Times. On March 14, 2013 it ran an Editorial that endorsed the idea that the United States should engage and work with Kenya’s new President Uhuru Kenyatta, despite clear evidence that he funded vicious death squads in Kenya. The Times essentially argued that U.S. strategic interests were separate from issues of morality and decency, and outweighed them. By adopting such abhorrent positions, The Times has increased the risks for American journalists working overseas. If Kenyans who lost family members and relatives to the death squads should decide to retaliate against American journalists or even The Times itself with suicide attacks, it is certain that The Times’ management would react with outrage and shock. However to some, such attacks would be justified.
Suicides can be an indicator of desperation against an adversary, but they are also an indicator of internal decay. In 2012 the U.S. military officially recorded 349 suicides among military members, a number that was up 15% from 2011. That means that one suicide occurs every 25 hours. In Afghanistan, there is a rising tide of suicides by women and girls who have been promised freedom by the West, but find that such freedom is nothing more than a press release by the U.S. Secretary of State. As the reality sinks in, suicide rates have skyrocketed. While U.S. officials hold photo sessions with wealthy Afghan women and proclaim that women are advancing in Afghanistan, the reality in the countryside is different.
The response by Western Governments to all these suicides is denial and paralysis. The suicides signal fundamental problems and a growing cancer within the West, but Western officials refuse to publicly acknowledge the problems, therefore the suicides continue. There is such a gulf between Western governments and the developing world, and between Western officials and their own troops that solutions seem impossible. Without a solution, victory may well fall to the side most determined to win. Remember that in 1983 a single suicide truck bomber attacked the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut resulting in the eventual withdrawal of the U.S. and French expeditionary force in Lebanon.