The U.S. Army has issued a pocket reference guide – ”Inside the Wire Threats – Afghanistan Green on Blue” – to help troops protect themselves from the increasingly common phenomenon of attacks from Afghans who are supposed to be allies. Men in the Afghan military and police force suddenly turn on and murder the Americans who are training them; there have been eight such attacks in just the last three weeks, and they are growing more frequent. The Army’s recommendations revolve around the central premise that such attacks are the U.S.’s fault.

According to, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan General John Allen “recently ordered U.S. forces to carry loaded weapons ‘around the clock’ following the recent spate of ‘green on blue’ attacks.” That they weren’t already doing so is insane, but true. According to Truthout, the pocket guide stipulates: “If U.S. soldiers are unarmed during a ‘green on blue’ attack they should ‘execute rehearsed actions on contact,’ and ‘have an escape route and plan in mind — hopefully two.’” They would be unarmed, of course, to show good will towards the Afghans. The fact that these instructions need to be included in the guide illustrate how these gestures of good will are all too often returned.

Further, the pocket guide states that American troops can try to prevent their gestures of good will from being answered with murderous rage by establishing a “bond of trust” with their Afghan counterparts. They can do this by being careful to “avoid arrogance, i.e., belief that ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] culture is superior to Afghan culture.” American military personnel must always “maintain professionalism, respect, and dignity of ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] officers and soldiers.” This respect includes avoiding “public rebukes” of Afghan soldiers, and always demonstrating respect for “Islam, Koran or a mosque,” as well as “Afghan women, elders and children.”

It tells troops to apologize and to offer “compensation” if they anger the Afghans in some way.

What if American soldiers do not labor assiduously at establishing a “bond of trust” with their Afghan counterparts? What if they do demonstrate “arrogance,” perhaps even disapproving of the poisoning of girls who dare to go to school, or the honor killing of women, or the jihad/martyrdom suicide bombing, or the execution of adulteresses, or the beheading of converts out of Islam? What if the ANSF forces who witness this arrogance consider it a lack of respect and an affront to their dignity? What if the Americans even go so far as to point out the Koran’s verses mandating warfare against unbelievers and the subjugation of women? Would that constitute an arrogance and lack of respect for Islam so intolerable as to warrant a green-on-blue attack?

By focusing on what the Americans must do in order to forestall such attacks, the guide leaves the unmistakable impression that such attacks are triggered by American behavior. The message: if the Americans were just a bit less arrogant, a bit more respectful, then all would be well. The pocket guide thus engages in the same patronizing of Muslims that characterizes so much of today’s discourse: Muslims are never responsible for their actions but are only passive reactors to the actions of the big bad West, which carries all the responsibility. It’s striking how ethnocentric these people who profess to believe in the equality of all cultures really are.