Surrounding the recent capture of the American soldier in Afghanistan are reports in the media about pamphlets dropped by the US military in eastern Afghanistan on which are printed pictures and scripts in Paxtu. The pictures consist of a dramatic drawing in which a de-armored head-bent soldier is standing in a giant ghoulish human-like palm, a fully armored American soldier kicking open the door of a local mud house, and a picture in which a fully armored, goggled, and expression-less monster-like American soldier is seated on the ground interacting with five smiling young Afghan boys. The pictures contain Paxtu scripts reading: One of our American gusts is lost, if you don’t release the American soldier, you will be hunted. I wish to comment on the cultural content of these pictures and a portion of the accompanying Paxtu script.
Let us compare the size and cultural contours of the average adult Afghan male with the American soldier. Mass-produced and fully armored, the monster is at least a foot taller and a foot wider. Add to this the weight and awareness of the armor and the advantage of high tech wiring, high tech drugs, machine guns, hovering B-1s, B-52s, F-umpteen jet fighters, helicopter gunships, lurking tanks and other killing machines. Imagine if an individual and his/her community in Michigan or New Zealand were the Afghan counterpart in this starkly uneven relationship!! What would he/she think, feel, do? Are “terror”, "torture", and “resistance” outcomes of this asymmetrical construct? The local pre-modern Afghan community has virtually nothing except its prayers and the culturally conditioned will to resist.
In the short and long run this vulgar asymmetry produces everlasting humiliation in the dominated. And humiliation produces bottomless wells of hatred, disrespect, and contempt for the inflictor. These effects will eternally fuel, structure, and anchor painful memories in the local culture about the unwelcome, uninvited, unwarranted and, in the calculation of the dominated, barbaric and terrorizing, American-led European presence kicking doors to the sacred spaces of the domestic lives of those Afghan young boys who are convinced their country and their people had nothing to do with the destruction of American towers. These boys believe Ben Laden is dead and the American government knows this. And if by remote chance the Arab monster is alive, it is plausible for him to be housed somewhere in the wilderness of northern Pakistan, western China or, likelier, under the big cube in Mecca. The possible validity of this scenario is consistent with the fact that the state systems and ideologies in these three locations have powerful reasons to keep the American imperial beast freaked out, confused, guessing, hallucinating, and otherwise wasting away. The idea of a live Ben Laden is created by the American war machine in order to justify the development of new military technologies and tactics in anticipation of imaginary population-centered wars aimed at the sanitized and "humane" killing of civilian opponents.
These smart-looking smiling Afghan boys know they are seated across from a postmodern big time terrorist killer. The latter (probably a high school dropout or a convicted criminal serving jail time under the flag) for whom this is the best paying job he can ever find, knows what these kids think and wish for. The Afghan kids know this as well and this is what consoles them. This awareness must rattle the human content of the armored monster. Would suicide appear in his moral calculations? Have the thousands of American soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and committed suicide participated in such tortuous silent hierarchical dialogues? My anthropological awareness and American/Paxtun cultural instincts tell me these Afghan boys and their cultural communities constantly pray for the uninvited monster guests to meet their equal and they know when that happens the monsters will be rendered toothless. Humiliation induced by violent domination universally produces this form of prayerful demeanor in the dominated and terrorized victim. Terrorism is violence or the threat of violence imposed on unarmed civilians.