FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cold, Cold Heart

It’s Valentine’s Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing “why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart.”

Here in Dubai, where I’m awaiting a visa to visit Afghanistan, the weather is already warm and humid.  But my bags are packed with sweaters because Kabul is still reeling from the coldest winter on record.  Two weeks ago, eight children under age five froze to death there in one of the sprawling refugee camps inhabited by so many who have fled from the battles in other provinces.  Since January 15, at least 23 children under 5 have frozen to death in the camps.

And just over a week ago, eight young shepherds, all but one under 14 years of age, lit a fire for warmth on the snowy Afghan mountainside in Kapisa Province where they were helping support their families by grazing sheep.  French troops saw the fire, and acted on faulty information, and the boys were all killed in two successive NATO airstrikes.  The usual denunciations from local authorities, and Western apologies, followed. (Trend News, February 10, 2012).

So I’m thinking about warmth, and who we share it with and who we don’t.

This is an unexpected trip for me.  I had first planned to spend this week at home in Chicago, and then, rather suddenly, agreed to join a group of informal human rights observers traveling to Bahrain for the one year anniversary of their brutally repressed “February 17th Revolution” (please follow events there, and demand that the U.S. cease arming Bahrain’s dictatorship, at witnessbahrain.org).  Bahraini authorities declined to issue me a visa, and so I asked the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers if I could change my plans and spend the coming week with them.

My friends tell me that the apartment where I’m headed has been without electricity for several days in a row.  The pipes have frozen, so there will be no running water.  But in spite of the cold, it’s an especially good time to visit them because twelve of them will be there, on winter vacation from school, including two 14 year old boys I couldn’t meet during my last visit who spent much of the last year away from the others, back home in Bamiyan province, in their mountain villages, supporting their families.

One father left the family to find work elsewhere and is now living in Iran. My young friend doesn’t hear from his father much, but I wonder what he must think as war threatens to move there. The mother launders clothes to help make ends meet, but with one weak arm due to a history of polio, she can’t earn enough for the family’s food. Her son is an excellent student, but she’s had to ask him to give up school and start adult work full time.  Older members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have worked hard finding him odd jobs in various shops, hoping to put off the day when he will have to start full time work as a shepherd.

I’ve just, by coincidence, read the story of another young man, training for work in the mountains: the article reaches me from friends I have just left in Colorado Springs, and begins: “Pfc. Josh Harris pulled the charging handle of a grenade launcher on Thursday, leaned back and peered through the sights.  His orders were clear.  “All right,” said Spc. Michael Breton, moments earlier. “There is an ice cream truck out there. So shoot it.”  Pressing down with his thumbs, the MK-19 — a machine gun equipped with grenades instead of bullets — launched four training grenades 300 meters down a Fort Carson range.” (www.gazette.com/articles/gis-133359-through-peered.html) This is last-minute training before shipping out with the Fort’s 4th Brigade Combat Team. “By March,” the reporter continues, “he’ll likely be watching grenades sail into the hillsides of eastern Afghanistan.”

Everyone knows that these attacks will kill civilians – will kill children.  If you fire enough bullets where there are children you’re going to hit them.  A few days back filmmaker John McHugh described his twelve day stint embedded in the U.S.’ “Operation Mace” in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province: “Over the course of my stay on Mace, I witnessed the truly awesome firepower that the U.S. military brings to a fight.  Between their helicopters and jets they had dropped 19 bombs, fired two Hellfire missiles, 205 rockets, 500 rounds of 20 millimeter, and 210 rounds of 30-millimetre cannon.  They also discharged 3,750 rounds of 50 caliber machine gun ammunition.  And yet, only once, could they confirm that they had killed a single Taliban fighter.” McHugh wrote this for Mideast-based broadcaster Al Jazeera (“The Winter War,” February 9, 2012).  Would a Western media outlet have bothered covering the story?

It’s hard to fathom the vast indifference of Western observers to what their militaries are doing in Afghanistan – to the lives lost, the futures broken, the families and friendships and loves torn apart – all of which will occur in the next country we collectively agree to demolish, and the next. Our apathy surely makes it easier for military and political elites to wage multiple wars.  They count on us to look out at a world that we have been told is barbaric and feral, addled (unlike ours) with terrifying fundamentalism driving them (unlike us) to incessant violence.

We lull ourselves into a comforting delusion that we’re waging humanitarian wars, and then wonder why people aren’t more grateful.  Thinking of ourselves as exceptionally noble, we’re lost in denial masked as civilizing virtue as we hum along with Tony Bennett’s puzzled lyrics:

“I tried so hard my dear to show that you’re my only dream
Yet you’re afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme.
A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart.
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind, and melt your cold, cold heart?”

Kathy Kelly  co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She’s a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail