The number of casualties suffered by the international coalition in the war in Afghanistan has its own Wikipedia entry. Such casualties are detailed there – which are 3,609 in total – according to their country of origin, according to the year in which they occurred and according to the Afghan province in which they occurred. The casualties suffered by the Afghan people, by contrast, do not seem to be of such concern. Some sources they speak of about 165,000. Other, of 150,000. Other they raise the figure to 234,675. In all these calculations, about a quarter of the victims are civilians. This disproportion between one and the other information is accentuated in the case of Spanish soldiers. Again, we know with precision the number of total casualties (104: 79 due to air accident, 18 due to attack, 2 due to accident and 5 due to heart attack). But asking about the number of casualties our soldiers have caused is something of an anathema. It is as if the very will to know constitutes an offense.
What have we done for 20 years in Afghanistan? What should generate an honest look at ourselves has been transformed into a kind of double flight towards moral cowardice. On the one hand, we discharge the responsibility in the United States. On the other, we seem to want to believe that our presence in the country has been well-intentioned, dignified, and virtuous. The two escapes are intertwined: we assume that the United States too – or, in the most bombastic version, “the West” – was in the country for some kind of lofty reason, and that makes our presence less disruptive. The role that “women” are fulfilling in this sort of underhanded moral purification is worthy of the most elaborate of couches. We are the defenders of mothers, sisters and brides, but review the figures: we have killed 50,000 civilians, that is: we have killed their children, their brothers, their boyfriends. And, of course, themselves. Can we be both a savior and an invader? The question itself is schizophrenic. It does not refer to an answer, but to a diagnosis: it is an insane question. But it is what, for the most part, we have tried to believe: we have left and disaster has arrived. The possibility that the disaster was us (or, if you want, the possibility that the disaster too it was us), does not even appear in our consciousness. We don’t want to face it.
I know that, at the wild and headless pace imposed by the media, Afghanistan is no longer news, but perhaps some uncomfortable doubts and questions should be raised. Why did we go there? There is only one reason: the United States. Imagine for a moment that 9/11 had occurred in Angola, that the almost 3,000 dead in that attack had been Angolans and that Angola had led the international coalition. Someone will say, “Angola is neither a democracy, nor does it belong to NATO.” Okay, trade Angola for Poland. There would never have been an “international coalition” accompanying one country or another on the adventure. We would never have needed to wash our conscience one way or the other. The war in Afghanistan would not have taken place.
Why do we follow the United States, but not other countries? It is an interesting question. The type of ancestry that that country has over us, and over many other countries, is twofold. It is cultural, of course, but at the same time it is economic. Failure to align itself with the world’s largest economic power would undoubtedly have had negative consequences for our interests. A certain simplistic left tends to see “economic interests” as a kind of property or monopoly of the powerful, of those above, the multinationals, the power, the banks, and so on. But everything is much more complex, devilishly more complex. Look Kichi in Cádiz, the protagonist of what in my opinion has been the most explicit and revealing resignation – revealing how the world works and how far we are from understanding it and therefore being able to change it – that Podemos has carried out from power. Despite everything said in its electoral program, Podemos in Cádiz has ended up defending the manufacture of weapons and their sale to a dictatorship like Saudi Arabia. Everything to defend people’s jobs. Let’s open our eyes: these are, too, “economic interests.” If governments led by transformative forces like Podemos swallow their words when they come to power, what will other governments led by political forces that do not harbor such moral scruples, even when they draft their ideas, will not do? In sight it is.
Another uncomfortable question, which although it may not seem like it has everything to do with Afghanistan: what does it mean that evil is something banal? “Eichman in Jerusalem. An Essay on the Banality of Evil”, the famous essay that Hannah Arendt published in 1963, is often interpreted in a completely wrong way or misguided. Arendt herself later defended that what she was trying to point out was not so much that evil was something for which its perpetrators blame others – due obedience, which too – but above all something of which one is simply not aware. In his view, if we demonize evil, if we assume that evil can only be caused by soulless monsters, in a certain way we absolve them and, above all, we absolve ourselves of our greatest crime, that of not thinking things through accordingly. . That of not taking responsibility, even to the feces, for our actions.
What have we been in Afghanistan? What is really disturbing is that we do not even consider the possibility that evil has been on our side and that the sowers of terror and death have been us. Unaware of evil, as Arendt warned; cowards before the truth, as Ferlosio denounced: “all the traps, all the rebellions, all the cynicisms, all the hypocrisies, all the neuroses, all the dissimulations, all the superstitions, all the dogmatisms, all the resentments, originate in this universal bad conscience and in the strenuous effort to avoid the trance of looking face to face the hideous face of pain “.