The Empire Never Changes

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A series of ‘insider attacks’ against U.S. and allied troops by Afghan forces … have killed 51 coalition troops this year…” Which, predictably, “upsets” the occupiers: “Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble” laments, “It’s one thing to be killed in action by the insurgents. It’s quite another to be shot in the back of the head at night by your friends.”

Sane people would consider such “friends” and shootings a clue that Afghanis don’t appreciate “U.S. and allied troops” invading their country any more than “the U.S. and its allies” would welcome Afghani conquerors to theirs. But we’re dealing with politicians and warriors, not sane people. The closest to sense these psychopaths come is suggesting an “early” (though not immediate) “withdrawal” [sic for “retreat from where no American or allied soldier should have trespassed in the first place”].

The British Empire faced the same conundrum in the 18th century with its rebellious American colonies. His Majesty’s army had invaded New York City on September 15, 1776; just 6 days later, on this date 236 years ago, a devastating fire destroyed a quarter of the place. (In the scantily populated world of the 1770’s, that equated to only about 600 buildings in a metropolis of just 25,000 residents.) Debate has raged ever since about the origins of the fire, but the British commanders at the time insisted Americans – some of them even New Yorkers – had set it to deprive the Redcoats of their victory and comfortable quarters for the upcoming winter. “My Lord,” British General William Howe wrote to the Secretary of State, safely at home in London, “Between the 20th and 21st instant, at midnight, a most horrid attempt was made by a number of wretches to burn the town of New York, in which they succeeded too well… Many were detected in the fact, and some killed upon the spot by the enraged troops in garrison, and had it not been for the exertion [of various British brigades], the whole town must infallibly have been consumed, as the night was extremely windy.” (Read more about New York’s “Great Fire” in my novel, Halestorm, available in paperback or for Kindle, NookiPad, Sony, or your computer.)

Imagine battling people who so resent you they will burn their own homes or “join” your unit to kill you. Where is the soldier’s conscience, or at least his instinct for self-preservation?

7:23 am on September 21, 2012