Afghanistan is Not a Land of Isolated Incidents

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Whenever some bad event happens in Afghanistan the officialdom likes to explained it away as an isolated incident.

That may be an effective propaganda method for addressing a western public. We can read and write, we have books and we use a formalized frame for time, days, month and year. We can look up the date a certain incident happened and as such isolate it. Having books also allows us forget incidents because, when needed, we can again look them up. We remember birth- and other special days as distinct dates and in that aspect we do have a digitized memory that often makes us miss the context of single events.

Those things are different for a farmer in Helmand. He likely can neither read nor write. He doesn’t know the date of his birth. The history he knows is the one he heard from his grandpa during long winter nights in the form of songs, tales and poems. He will add to those what he remembers from his own live when he will -inshalla- one day tell them to his grandchildren. His is then a cumulative memory. Single events are remembered by being put into a historic context.

The farmer’s tale to his grandson about the British people will include parts of poems he once heard about the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839–1842) mixed with some bits from the Battle of Maiwand during the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878–1880) added to some tales from the attack on Spin Boldak during the third Anglo-Afghan war (1919). To that he will add his own memory of the unsuccessful attempt of the British army to pacify Helmand during 2006 to 2009. There are no isolated incidents in his oral, cumulative history. In the Helmand farmer’s mind there is no ‘lone’ gunman.

The attempts by the officialdom to use the isolated incident excuse, as documented below, are therefore bound to fail in addressing Afghans. They should fail on us too.

The alleged slaying of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan will not affect plans to turn over security operations to local troops, NATO and member countries said as they called for a quick investigation into the deaths.NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu called for a swift, thorough probe, but said the killings were an “isolated incident” and as such would not affect the alliance’s overall plans to turn over security operations to Afghan troops by the end of 2014.
NATO: Afghanistan rampage won’t affect timeline – March 12 2012

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul went into lockdown as the violent protests entered a second day over Quran burnings. U.S. Embassy said in its official Twitter feed.

“This is not who we are. These are very, very isolated incident”, General Allen said nervously as he tried in vain to placate reporters who see this as a “big story”…
U.S. Embassy in lock down over Quran burning as Marine guards go on high alert – February 22 2012

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai says the killing of four French soldiers by an Afghan army soldier was an “isolated and individual” action and did not represent the anger of the Afghan people.
Killing of French troops an isolated incident, says Afghan President Karzai – Jan 21, 2012

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed condolences on Friday for the four French soldiers that were shot and killed by an Afghan solider, but said the attack is an “isolated” incident.”Such tragic incidents are terrible and grab headlines, but they are isolated,” he said in a statement.
NATO chief downplays attack on French troops in Afghanistan – January 20 2012

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the two French soldiers had been deliberately fired on by an Afghan soldier present at their position in the Kapisa valley.

The “isolated incident” would not affect the process of eventually handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces, the minister said in a statement, adding that his thoughts were with the families of those killed and their fellow service members.
2 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack – December 29 2011

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier allegedly killed his Australian colleague whilst on guard duty today, May 30, 2011. Another Australian soldier died during a Chinook’s hard landing on a resupply mission within hours of the initial incident.

Australians have mentored thousands of Afghans in the past 6 years and whilst this is seemingly an isolated incident, such Afghan sentiment towards mentoring troops is on the rise.
Two More Australian Soldiers Die In Afghanistan – May 30 2011

International Security Assistance Forces confirmed one Afghan civilian was killed by an ISAF servicemember in the Ali Sheng district of Laghman province Sunday.

“We take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously and we will conduct a thorough investigation of this isolated incident,” said Maj. Patrick Seiber, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command – East spokesman.
ISAF investigates death in Laghman – September 27 2010

In a possibly isolated incident, ISAF recently attacked a convoy of cars in Takhar, a small province in northeast Afghanistan. They remain adamant that they killed some previously unknown insurgent figure. One of the occupants of those cars, however, was a candidate running parliament — he was injured, and several of his companions were killed.
Half the violence, twice the fraud: The Afghan elections – September 20 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — A seemingly routine training practice in marksmanship went fatally wrong on Tuesday when an Afghan Army sergeant turned his weapon on an American trainer and a gunfight began. When it was over, the sergeant, two American trainers and an Afghan soldier who had been standing nearby lay dead.

General Patton said that he was uncertain about the motives of the Afghan sergeant, but that the military considered it “an isolated incident.”
Gunfight Kills 2 Americans Who Trained Afghan Army – July 20 2010

The attack came under the cover of darkness at 2.45am, when Gurkhas on duty in the operations room of a British army patrol base in Helmand province were cut down by fire from an Afghan comrade.As he fled, the renegade Afghan soldier targeted others with a rocket-propelled grenade; one British soldier reportedly died in his sleeping quarters.

But Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said it was an isolated incident.
Killings shock troops on joint patrols vital to Afghanistan exit strategy – July 13 2010

An Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing five before fleeing, authorities said Wednesday, raising concerns about discipline within the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents.

Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said it was an isolated attack.

“These are incidents that can happen anywhere. The crazy man who has done this has also attacked the Afghan police,” he told the AP. “You can’t use this isolated incident to say that there is a problem with the police force of Afghanistan. In the U.S., people shoot up people in a shopping mall. There are crazy people everywhere.”
Afghan Policeman Kills 5 British Soldiers – November 4 2009

As expected, the U.S. military quickly denied that the video released on Sunday by Al Jazeera is evidence that our troops proselytizing Muslims in Afghanistan, claiming that what was shown in the video was an isolated incident, and that the chaplains’ statements were taken out of context.
Rights Group Uncovers Other Cases Of Military Proselytizing Christianity to Muslims – March 8 2009

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