Dr Linda Norgrove – victim of the UK’s Afghanistan policy

Dr Linda Norgrove – victim of the UK’s Afghanistan policy

 Dr Linda Norgrove was a Scottish development fieldworker of incredible bravery and philosophical sophistication who was working in Afghanistan on crop and land management issues. She was doing what NATO has been unable to do – persuade the tribesmen to grow crops other than opium poppies within a scheme of general agricultural assistance. As you will know, following her kidnap she was killed in a botched rescue attempt by US special forces, authorized by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Although the Taliban are blamed for the kidnapping, United States and NATO propaganda would have it that everyone with a weapon is a Taliban and if dead as a result of air strikes, women and children are Taliban as well. In fact, the evidence is that the kidnappers were a small gang of local bandits who might or might not have had Taliban sympathies. Let us be clear. The Taliban are graduates of certain regressive madrasas – religious schools – in Pakistan. Most Afghans view NATO troops as simple invaders and believe that it is legitimate to fight them. If they sympathize with the Taliban it is because this is a shared view. That view would be absolutely correct even if NATO’s motives were to be as pure as new-fallen snow – which they are not. Everyone in every country has an inalienable right to armed resistance against an invader.

That being the case, it could be said that it is the United States’ vicious war on the Afghan people that provided the motive for Dr Norgrove’s kidnapping. There is no point in General David Petraeus posing as a great humanitarian who, but for some bad luck, would have carried out an heroic rescue. He, American and NATO troops should not be in Afghanistan at all and, moreover, his rescue was ill-conceived, badly executed and incompetent. There are no excuses. Dr Norgrove was killed by a United States soldier.

Yes, I know. The rescue was nearly successful; intercepted conversations said this or that; informants said this or that; it was feared she would be taken here or there; a strong message has been sent to kidnappers, Al-Qaeda etc, etc. All cheap excuses. All rubbish. Dr Norgrove, a better man than any of our warmongering government, is dead. The reality is that General Petraeus and Prime Minister David Cameron were willing to risk her life for the chance of basking in macho glory from a high profile rescue.

Mr Cameron has said: “…ultimately the responsibility for Linda’s death lies with those who took her hostage.” That is a false, self-serving statement. The US and UK should not be in Afghanistan, killing its people. Perhaps the kidnappers thought that if the US can kidnap their people, torture and murder them in their Guantanamo Bay torture facility it must also be legitimate for them to kidnap Europeans. We see here the fruit of lawless invasions and kidnapping by the United States with British support. Both ultimately and in the violent event itself, the United States and the United Kingdom killed Dr Norgrove. There are no excuses.

To put this macho, murderous botch-up in perspective, we should consider the alternative rescue attempt that was simultaneously in progress by elders of the village from which the kidnappers came. This was not merely ignored but was sabotaged by the Americans.

Haji Kamil who came from the same village as the kidnappers’ leader Mullar Basir, says that the village elders had been appalled by the kidnapping and had been negotiating with the kidnappers for 12 days before the rescue attempt. They had negotiated the release of three Afghan prisoners the previous year and believed that they had persuaded the kidnappers to release Dr Norgrove by the robust threat to burn down their houses and exile their families if she was not released. The elders were working within the Pashtun cultural system according to Pashtun rules and values and were taking the kidnapping very seriously.

Because of the Americans’ intensive search for Dr Norgrove in the area, the elders were afraid that they would be attacked in their travels to negotiate with the kidnappers. They therefore kept the Americans informed where they were going. Although the Americans promised cooperation, whenever the elders mentioned a location, the Americans flooded it with troops before they arrived there on foot. They concluded that the Americans were merely using them as a source of information.

Haji Kamil says that the elders were in contact with the kidnappers even as the rescue operation got underway. The kidnappers had agreed to hand Dr Norgrove over if the operation was called off. The Americans refused to call the operation off. Haji Kamil unreservedly blames the Americans for Dr Norgrove’s death. This is the entire story of American arrogance and power in microcosm exactly as it is on the international stage, complete with contempt for other nationalities and cultures, deception, lies, misinformation, incompetence and self-serving excuses.

The high-risk guns-blazing rescue was authorized by David Cameron because he and his advisers, particularly Foreign Secretary William Hague, think in terms of the military solutions and military thinking that are an integral part of their commitment to the Afghanistan war. Inevitably such thinking also contaminates their approach to domestic issues.

Why is David Cameron committed to the Afghanistan war? Our politicians and military leaders are constantly saying that Afghanistan has never been properly explained to the British people but they never give that explanation.

Australian Brigadier Mark Smethurst gives the explanation. Brigadier Smethurst says that while successive Australian governments have stated that they are in Afghanistan to deny Al-Qaeda terrorists a base, the key reason is to maintain the US alliance. That is precisely the reason why UK soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. Australian, British, German and other NATO troops are merely fighting wars of American choice.

That is the reason why American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently interterfered in the UK’s imminent defence review, expressing concern about budget cuts weakening NATO. Mr Cameron was “forced” to ease US fears and reassure General Petraeus of the UK’s commitment as an ally, according to the Independent newspaper. After the debacle of his operation that killed Dr Norgrove, General Petraeus might well have worried that David Cameron could lose faith in both his cause and competence. Leaving aside America’s commercial and intellectual parasitization of the UK and Europe by its predatory takeovers of our businesses, its banking frauds and infiltration of our research establishments, it has parasitized the UK to the value of about GBP12 billion in direct Afghanistan war costs, plus 340 service personnel killed.

However, there is a more profound lesson that Prime Minister Cameron should learn from the killing of Dr Norgrove. Dr Linda Norgrove’s work derived from humanitarian and Christian traditions that are essentially non-violent. They are concerned with means of bringing good into existence which in practice takes the form of good works generally. It is a philosophy that operates at the level of our common humanity or the “brotherhood of man” and overcomes evil with good. This was Dr Norgrove’s defence against violence and harm, which made an armed defence unnecessary in perhaps the most dangerous country in the world. It is true that unusually stupid or perverse persons such as her kidnappers might be unable to recognize the meaning, indeed, universal power of her protection. To harm such a person is to abandon one’s own humanity. The local elders recognized this, however, and they took strong action.

If Mr Cameron had reflected on the situation, if he had been capable of comprehending the alternative, he might have refused the Americans’ solution of violence. He might have insisted that the Americans support the local elders’ efforts, offer an amnesty to the kidnappers and widely publicize locally how the nature of Dr Norgrove’s humanitarian work contrasted with the crime of kidnapping her. As their identities were known, threats to hunt the kidnappers down if she were to come to harm would also have been useful. The kidnappers were already reviled in their own village. Such a campaign would have removed all Pashtun support from them.

Of course, as I have said above, it is the American invasion and devastation of Afghanistan that provided the motivation or excuse for a stupid local bandit to ignore the values of our common humanity. All societies have means of dealing with such people and the village elders took action in this case. It is possible that the Americans did not inform Mr Cameron about the local elders’ initiative and if so, Mr Cameron should draw appropriate conclusions from that.

Mr Cameron should reflect that he has just made a decision very similar to one made by President Barack Obama at about the same time into his presidency. Three months into his presidency Mr Obama was asked to approve the killing of three teenaged Somali pirates who held the captain of the ship Maersk Alabama at gunpoint. The pirates were negotiating for their lives while in a small boat that was tethered to an American warship, with no possibility of escape. President Obama approved their killing and snipers shot the three young men. It was completely unnecessary and was a bad sign that revealed his basic morality as I said at the time. Since then he has proved to be as violent, lawless and willing to kill foreigners as President George Bush.

Similarly, Mr Cameron’s decision to rely on American violence lacked knowledge and judgement. It bodes ill for his premiership. It was not the only decision possible nor the best option as he and his self-serving supporters would have it. He needed to reflect, ask for more information and think, with a little imagination.

This decision and his support for American violence indicate that he will not deviate from the path of subservience to America set by Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown. If so, it will be as disastrous for the country as it was for Dr Linda Norgrove because the same thinking and morality underlie it. The Blair-Brown governments were economic and military disasters because of their attachment to America. If Mr Cameron’s government continues on the same path for another four years the country’s collapse will be irretrievable. Only detachment from America will free the United Kingdom to develop its own culture and future.

I will speak of realities. The Americans play dirty. There are secret treaties, secret cabals, secret bribes, secret hidden crimes and secret threats that they use to enforce compliance. My advice to Mr Cameron is that he should ignore all of these and break with America by coming out of Afghanistan immediately. The new Chief of Defence Staff, General David Richards, has doubtless been appointed for his political reliability. He made some on-message keynote speeches to prove this, but he nevertheless has possibilities as an ally in cutting loose. Mr Cameron should plan the future of an independent Britain oriented to Europe where, in leaving Afghanistan summarily, he would find more allies and would be leading the way positively rather than following the example of America’s running dog Anthony Blair.

Let the Americans do their worst with their threats and blackmail. The country will understand and support him. It will forgive past lapses if he and his team are seen to be acting for Britain rather than America. Nor would he have any problem with his next term of office despite the severe financial problems ahead. It is possible to do this right now. Left any longer it will not be possible. The country will sink into poverty and serfdom to America. If it should happen that Britain becomes poor but free, there is hope; if poor but in serfdom there is no hope. We may contemplate the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan following “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Operation Enduring Freedom” as examples of American benevolence.

This is the lesson that David Cameron should learn from Dr Linda Norgrove’s death.

Source: Redress Information & Analysis (http://www.redress.cc). Material published on Redress may be republished with full attribution to Redress Information & Analysis (http://www.redress.cc)