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His Name was Dilawar

keith harmon snow | Afghanistan

The stereotypical Western media images of Afghanistan have men riding camels and women wearing veils. Beyond this, most westerners seem to understand little about what Afghanistan is really like, and nothing about Afghan culture. There are many ugly racial slurs prevalent amongst the ranks of U.S. soldiers (and Westerners more generally) the least offensive of these derogatory references being leveled at Afghan men are to call them 'towel-heads' and 'camel jockeys'. This kind of racial slur is the leading edge of dehumanizing and 'other-ing' by one group of people targeting another with hatred and/or more overt violence, and this is both precursor and elemental to genocide.

"Great Harm Has Been Done to US," declared George Bush in a speech thunderously applauded by the U.S. Congress on 20 September 2001. With this disingenuous slogan the United States directed its unaccountable permanent warfare machine at the people of Afghanistan, a place that few U.S. citizens know much about. Our 'allies' jumped aboard, unleashing high-tech weaponry and shock-and-awe destruction on a simple people that have been subject to the nasty prerogatives of Empire since ~ 1838. 

Civilians bear the brunt of this ugly war: over the past 4 years far more than 33,000 Afghan civilians were injured or killed. The cowardice of our war includes drone strikes, targeted assassinations, 'dirty tricks' black operations, snatch-and-snuff kidnappings, torture"all as policy.  The War of Terror has caused millions of direct / indirect deaths since 2001, and millions more displaced persons, and the U.S. has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Dilawar of Yakubi was a young taxi driver tortured/killed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

In the spring of 2001 I launched an organic gardening project, planted about 1/2 to 1 acre of vegetables. I sold my produce at a farm stand I created by the side of the highway on our family land.  Following the New York City carnage that occured on 11 September 2001 it immediately became clear that the Pentagon (the Bush administration was in power but planning preceeded the Bush presidency) had long since planned to attack Afghanistan.

So when I learned of the imminent invasion of Afghanistan I felt outrage, horror and sadness, and I painted a simple three foot square sign that I then posted in the feild next to the farm stand.  I quoted the bible: LOVE THY ENEMY (but I did not provide chapter and verse).

The sign was defaced overnight, the 'LOVE' blacked out and KILL KILL KILL KILL written on the borders.  Over the next four months a local war was waged over that sign, and there were over 40 attacks in a blizzard of violence targeting my farm.  I know who did this, and some of them are people who also have been involved in the wars in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Sudan and Iraq.  

The sign was torn down, defaced, rammed; the farm stand several times wrecked; the gardens driven through at night by 4-WD trucks; trash thrown on the property; and one night the tee-pee I was living in was torn down by two trucks at midnight.  

All of this only strengthened my resolve to go to Afghanistan and document the war, the suffering, the resilieance of this enigmatic people"anything I could.

I landed in India in November 2001 on an assignment for a travel magazine, and I planned to jump up to Afghanistan.  I got a visa for Pakistan, but I didn't have the support to go to Afghanistan, and more than that I didn't have the courage.  I left India and returned home filled with shame and sadness. 

When I finally arrived in Afghanistan  (2006), I stayed only some four/five weeks, departing soon after suffering high fever and obscure respiratory ailment due to my exposure to an unsafe water source (that the people live and die with). These images are part of the record of what I saw.

The Afghan people and the place touched my heart, and my awareness of the injustice of the 16-year War of Terror being waged by the United States and NATO, with hoardes of private mercenaries (most of the same ones also operating in Iraq and Africa), continues to weigh heavy on my heart and soul.  

This is an unjust war that I and my fellow (North) Americans and Canadians and Europeans should have stopped by now.  No war is the right war, it is all horribly wrong.  The innocent people of Afghanistan have suffered great harm, and they are still suffering.  The United States and its allies have committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.  It is a misguided quest, and criminal.

I wrote and published only one short story about my trip to Afghanistan, Little Soman's Little War, and this appeared in Kyoto Journal.  Most of these images have never been published.  

While in Kabul I ran into Dr. Mohammed Daud Miraki, author of the shocking testmony to war crimes titled: Afghanistan After "Democracy": The Untold Story Through Photographic Images.  Through Dr. Miraki my eyes have been further opened to the nature of this illegal and immoral enterprise.  From Bush to Obama to Trump this unjust war continues.

I can only hope that most of the people seen in these photographs have survived.  It is unlikely that they have thrived.




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