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The Honorable Stand of Ben Griffin

"I Did Not Join the British Army to Conduct American Foreign Policy"

by ROBERT BILLYARD

If there is any hope of saving Afghanistan booting out the Americans is an essential first step

"I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy," said British soldier Ben Griffin, a member of the SAS-Britain’s elite commando force. Griffin has resigned from the army in disgust after witnessing "dozens of illegal acts" by American troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqi’ s as "untermenschen"-the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human. Griffin is not alone in making this accusation. It has been made by others. He is not the first nor will he be last combatant to register his disdain for the moral depravity surrounding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As reported in The Telegraph UK:

Mr. Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military’s "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.

He also accused the British prime minister and government of repeatedly lying about the conduct of the war.

Griffin is no ordinary soldier. The SAS is the British equivalent of Canada’ s JTF2, America’s Delta Force, Green Berets and Special Forces. In World War II parlance these groups were known as commandos, they operate behind enemy lines destroying selected targets and gaining intelligence. They are trained to kill and no trick is too dirty in getting the job done.

But now as with many initiatives started with a somewhat noble purpose it appears these groups are out of control. The dark side of these forces is that they can operate under highest secrecy, with no political accountability, and no adherence to international law such as the Geneva Conventions. They can conduct clandestine warfare and torture with little accountability. Even now US Special Forces are operating in Iran.

Griffin’s claims are substantiated in a NY Times article of March 20th 2006 – US abuses extend beyond Abu Ghraib- The article outlines how US Special Forces have a network of detention /torture centres established across Iraq. To avoid being detected and their activities being traced they undergo regular name changes and move under even deeper security once detected.

Griffin is the first SAS member to resign in protest. The fact that he does makes one wonder about the nature of the atrocities he has seen for the very essence of these commandos is their mental and physical toughness and their willingness to be absolutely ruthless. He has been granted an honourable discharge; no doubt because the British government wants to dodge the publicity that a court martial would generate.

It is now the stated policy of the US that it will conduct pre-emptive, simultaneous and serial warfare as necessary. Consequently we have two regional wars being waged at the same time; one becomes a precursor for the other, as still others loom on the horizon. The question has to be asked: Why, given the mess the Americans have made in Iraq would any country commit to a very similar war in Afghanistan under American direction; especially when we hear from an SAS soldier such as Griffin that the American military’ s "gung ho trigger happy attitude" has blown any chance of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi’s?

The conclusion we might draw is that America’s motives are not to win hearts and minds, not to liberate, but to vanquish.

Canadian General, Rick Hillier, has been traveling our country hyping the need to go to war. He feels the need to go over to Afghanistan and kill "scumbags." Maybe he is spending too much time in the company of his American counterparts.

Hillier might be reminded that the vast majority of casualties in both these wars have been civilian. Both conflicts are rife with both accidental and deliberate targeting of civilian populations. This is the era of the ignoble soldier leaving the civilian population to make the greatest sacrifice, in part, a political expediency to keep casualties to a minimum and also because a lot of remote controlled high-tech weaponry isn’t very discriminating or reliable, and is too often used based on faulty intelligence.

US four star general Tommy Franks maintains there is no need to keep body counts. But of course the real reason is his press attaché won’t allow it. Iraqi casualties, mainly civilian, are in the tens of thousands, and as Griffin rightly indicates "untermenschen" is an American franchise in both countries.

Afghanistan has suffered imperialist affections for the last thirty years. The country’s problems started in 1978 when the US deposed the Marxist government of Noor Mohammad Taraki for no other reason than that it was Marxist. This was during the Cold War and communist paranoia was rampant. Even though Taraki’s government was progressive and temporarily brought peace and stability to the country it was considered ideologically incorrect.

In the ensuing years the former USSR and the USA through their various intrigues ensured that Afghanistan remained in a constant state of war. The reason Afghanistan is in the mess it is today begins and ends largely with the reprehensible machinations of the US.

Like Iraq, the real reason Afghanistan was attacked was not because it was a threat but it was seen as an easy target. Both countries were exhausted from years of warfare. To its surprise, the US had to deal with tenacious counter-insurgencies.

Now the pacifying of Afghanistan has been turned over to NATO but this is mere window dressing. NATO troops from countries other than the United States are there only in token numbers. The vast majority of troops will still be American. Though the commander of NATO forces will be British, Lt. General David Richards, his deputy will be American. Air support will be American and the US will still maintain troops in the country not under NATO command. So even though this initiative will be under the name of NATO its real presence will still be predominantly American.

Afghans have every reason to distrust America’s motives and its continued presence will be a compelling reason to fight on.

The US created this conundrum and is therefore disqualified from being part of the solution. The task of this multinational force is handicapped from the outset by the American presence. Where a UN/NATO force, excluding American forces, might succeed this is not going to happen. The US is not going to release its hold on the jugular of Afghanistan as its ultimate interest in the country is not peace and reconciliation but strategic.

On this critical occasion when the UN could be an effective instrument of mediation the US has deliberately undermined it, considering it a hindrance to its neo-imperialist ambitions.

It is apparent the solution to Afghanistan is both military and humanitarian, but by its very structure there is every indication American militarism and its "gung-ho trigger happy attitude" will continue to prevail despite NATO involvement.

As Peggy Mason of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre points out in her excellent Globe and Mail analysis:

The American approach to fighting terrorism conflates three types of activities-war fighting, peacekeeping and anti-terrorist police operations, arguably to the detriment of all three.

On the peacekeeping component the Americans get a big zero and therefore the mission ends up working at cross purposes and will therefore end in failure.

As Amyas Godfrey, a London based military analyst states; "It will take the pressure off America and the idea that America is perpetrating a war against Muslims nations." Of course, America is not perpetrating war against Muslim nations. It is simply that when Muslim nations impede America’s neo-imperialist juggernaut they will be erased, reduced to cannon fodder in unconscionable numbers.

Afghanistan and Iraq become profound examples of how, when a superpower, insisting on a self-serving belligerent unilateralism, scorns international law, convention, and genuine multilateral values the result is anarchy-an anarchy which is, escalating, mutating and ominous.

There is a global hesitation to be critical of America’s current behavior. It brings forth the predictable accusation of anti-Americanism but this a stupid clichéd response at a time when clearly America’s actions demand censure and its motives must be regarded with greater skepticism.

Ben Griffin, like Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who vainly tried to warn the world Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, becomes another oracle that something is seriously amiss in a deafening silence.

Amyas Godfrey also states, "Americans don’t like to be under the command of other nations." This is cloying understatement. The simple reality is they won’t be. It may only be a matter of time before Lt. General David Richards also declares, "I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy"

ROBERT BILLYARD is an artist and writer living in Langley, British Columbia. He can be reached at: robertjb@shaw.ca