08 August 2016

It's still raining in Afghanistan (six years later)

This article was first published in August 2010 in the 'Daily News'.  It was titled "Have you seen the rain in Afghanistan?"  It's still raining in Afghanistan.  It's raining in other places too.  Maybe it's raining so much and it has rained so much that some people just don't want to acknowledge it is raining.  But some cannot escape the rain.  Like the people of Afghanistan. 
Not this kind of rain, no.
Early this morning, i.e. around 4 am, there was a loud noise outside my.  ‘Rain,’ I told myself with a smile, even though I was a fair distance from Bubbly Land.  It did rain. For half a second. It was almost like some friendly cloud had decided to relieve itself just there. A loud noise.  Half a second’s worth of rain.  That was it.  That’s all the rain in Kottawa that I can talk of this morning (August 6, 2010).

I know there are floods in Pakistan and you might wonder if I got the country name in the title wrong. No, I did not.  It is raining in Afghanistan, I was told by a man who died of a heart attack in 1956, at the age of 59.  Bertold Brecht was his name.   

It was a poem, ‘When evil-doing comes like falling rain’.  It’s about what happens when people get killed.  At first there is a cry of horror, Brecht observed.  When a hundred gets butchered, there is still outrage.  And then a thousand get slaughtered and there no end to the butchery.  What happens?

‘…a blanket of silence spreads.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain,
nobody calls out
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable
the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.’

A few days ago a NATO air strike killed at least 12 Afghan civilians, hours after the US commander urged his forces to avoid hurting non-combatants.  General David Petraeus is reported to have said ‘Every afghan civilian death diminishes (their) cause’.  I don’t know where they think they began, but we are talking about 3.5 million unnecessary deaths related to the invasion of Afghanistan.  That’s a lot of diminishing.  A lot of silence. A lot of rain. 

There is so much rain and not just in Afghanistan.  There is silence about all this in the holiest temples such as the one where a High Priest called Ban Ki-moon exorcises evil spirits by appointing advisory committees.  There is silence in a place called London.  Silence in a place called the International Crisis Group. 

There are some cries of horror I hear at the other end of the world. Someone is calling for butchery.  The knife is to be thrust, if ‘all goes well’, into the breast of a man called Bradley Manning. Representative Mike Rogers of the USA wants Manning electrocuted for allegedly (!) leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.  To stay with Brecht-speak, that would be Manning being accused of not being silent about that which has caused silence to descend on Afghanistan like the summer rain.  This same Rogers had voted the previous week for funds which according to a congressional report ends up funding weapons and explosives used by the ‘enemy’ that US forces are supposed to be fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban.

Speaking about WikiLeaks, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a news conference last week that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks ‘might already have on his hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family’.

So much irony!

So much blood. So much of butchery.  The dead in Afghanistan looked at me in silence. There was a message there: be silent for that is the loudest shout against butchery. 

It is raining in Afghanistan.  It is not a half-second cloud-burst. It is pure Brechtian rain. 

Let me be silent now.   

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malinsene@gmail.com