Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Afghanistan - the truth

It was interesting to hear Tony Blair telling British forces in Afghanistan that they were fighting for the future security of the 21st century. If the results of that US/UK led invasion of that country five years ago are anything to go by then the 21st Century looks set to be a miserable time to live through.

Five years after the invasion of Afghanistan the country is in ruins, the infrastructure in tatters, the Taliban, who Blair and Bush once informed us had been ousted, now as strong as ever and inflicting heavy casualties on UN forces. The cultivation of poppies, which Bush once told us had been halted, is now as strong as it has been in 20 years. Antonio Maria Costa (the UN anti-drug chief) said recently that this year's opium harvest will be a record 6,100 tons (enough to make 610 tons of heroin) or 92% of the total world supply and 30% more than the amount consumed across the world in one year. Way to go Bush and Blair!! Drug barons across the planet salute you!!

The burqa, once believed gone forever with the arrival of Western forces and the installation of a puppet regime, is being worn through sheer fear everywhere. So, congratulations Mrs Bush and Blair – another glorious foreign policy cock-up of gigantic proportions.

And let’s set the following fresh statistics against the 5 year Western occupation of Afghanistan:

Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44.5 years – the lowest in the world.
At 161 deaths per 1,000, infant mortality is the highest in the world.
One in five children perish before the age of 5.
Every day 50 women die in childbirth.
45% of those seeking work are unemployed.
50 % of the working population earn a miserly $200 a year. Those involved in the heroin trade – the country’s number one industry – fare a little better and receive an average $300 a year.
Only 25% of Afghans have access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
25% of the population depends on food aid.
500,000 are either homeless, living in appalling conditions or do-it-yourself dwellings.
There is one doctor for every 6,000 people.
Fewer than 6% of Afghans have access to electricity, and at irregular intervals.
Over 100 are killed or wounded each month by mines.
It is reported that children are being kidnapped and sold into slavery or killed for their organs. Tens of thousands of woman have turned to prostitution in order to survive.

Neither have US public relations helped matters. As in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, so too have there been numerous accounts of the torture of detainees in Afghanistan's US controled detention centres. Moreover, US troops have openly ridiculed the dominant religion there. In late October, US troops were captured on film burning the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in the village of Gonbaz - forbidden under Islamic law.

The corpses burnt, U.S. psychological operations specialists, in an attempt to lure Taliban followers, used loudspeakers to goad local villagers: "Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be...You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs, but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."

Just the way to go on when you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Operation Eduring Freedom turns into Operation Who Fancies Their Chances?

In Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (Seven Stories, 2006) by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, the authors argue that the continuing plunge into brutality is directly related to US policies over the past 5 years. The US would not allow the UN to stabilise the country outside of Kabul and allowed the Northtern Alliance and other war mongers to take control and to continue their violent suppression of the population. This, along with a hated US policy for the country, has turned people to support the Taliban.

The authors write:

“As warlords have carved out chunks of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, the lawlessness that gave rise to the strict Islamic movement in the mid-1990’s has begun to spread, once again, across this country. The United States-led military campaign… has returned to power nearly all of the same warlords who had misruled the country in the days before the Taliban.

“…One thing is certain: having warlord armies as the only non-U.S. forces in the bulk of Afghanistan ensures little international accountability for U.S. troop operations in the countryside. ISAF [the United Nations established International Security Assistance Force] expansion would have interfered with the U.S. hunt for al-Qa’eda and bin Laden. According to Al Ahram Weekly columnist Fahmi Howeidi, the ‘primary function of [ISAF] is to divert attention away from the military operations being conducted by U.S. forces in the Afghan countryside. In fact, as much as the hands of the international force are tied in Kabul, the Americans have a free hand elsewhere.’ The absence of peacekeeping troops, deliberately maintained by the Bush administration, ensured that the United States, rather than an international body, had control over most of Afghanistan.

“The official U.S. policy on Afghanistan’s security, according to Rumsfeld, was ‘helping [Afghans] develop a national army so that they can look out for themselves over time.’ Since developing a national army and police force in a country flush with weapons and decimated by war is a time- and money-consuming effort, Rumsfeld privately ‘wondered why they couldn’t just let the Afghan warlords create an army.’ In some areas of the country, this is indeed what has happened. While the national army is still in its infancy, local and regional warlords, many of whose private militias are well funded by drug revenues, easily filled the military vacuum left by the Taliban, but this didn’t

It now seems that the US is reaping the bitter harvest of its foreign policy which used Islamic fundamentalism as a puppet in its perennial game of globo-political profit-making. For years it courted some of the most dangerous, conservative and fanatical followers of Islam and is now paying the price. The globalisation process, which the US has pursued obsessively, has only served to make political Islam more reactionary in defence of its own culture and strategic interests.

The Islamic zealots the US are prepared to annihilate, in Afghanistan were once afforded most favoured status during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Under the Carter administration and beginning in 1980, they were trained in their thousands (sources quote 20,000) at the CIA’s Camp Peary and at the ex-army base at Harvey Point in Carolina; by the Green Berets at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and indeed by the SAS in Scotland. They would go on to be trained at Fort A.P. Hill, just off the Washington-Richmond interstate highway, and at Camp Picket in Virginia by Green Berets and US Navy SEALS. This was not simply ‘basic’ training. They were trained in over 60 deadly skills, including the use of sophisticated fuses, timers and explosives, remote control devices for land mines, incendiary devices and the use of automatic weapons with armour piercing shells. Thus the US went about supporting a ten-year long jihad in the hope Soviet state capitalism would not encroach upon its central Asian markets and that the military cost of the operation would cripple the Soviet economy.

Blair’s comments on securing the 21st Century beg the question “on whose behalf?” Would Western forces really be there if the smell of oil was not in the air? The oil reserves of Central Asia ($12 trillion worth by some estimates) are large enough to attract any oil-crazed president and his lackeys and as Afghanistan is geographically located between the Caspian basin and the markets of China and the Indian sub-continent, we can well see the country’s strategic importance to foreign policy planners wishing to dictate the way in which the region’s oil and gas reserves are utilised to the benefit of the US dollar.

To be sure, Afghanistan is not the first war of the 21st Century as Bush claimed back in 2001, but just one battle in a larger war that began in 1945 with the US determined to control the world’s resources, and there is more than ample evidence to prove this. More importantly, though, the entire Afghanistan/Iraq episode serves to show the insanity of the system we live in, and the desperate need to wrest control of our planet away from the madmen before it is indeed too late.In the 20th century, some 220 million lost their lives in wars, in conflicts over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, mineral wealth and the strategic points from which the same can be defended or in other words, in the name of profit.

As socialists, as observers of international affairs and commentators on the way they impinge upon the lives of our fellow workers, we are well attuned to the machinations of the elites of powerful countries as they seek to promote the interests of their corporate backers. Though it is no easy task for the uninitiated, we urge our fellow workers to be as vigilant as ever. To believe the arguments of the likes of Bush and Blair is to disarm yourself intellectually - for it is at times like the present, when the media is dancing to the tunes of governments, when the trumpets of jingoism, patriotism and reaction are sounding, that we need to be fighting the war of ideas with a little more gusto.

The solution to the ongoing insanity, we insist, remains the same. There is one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause – to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity – socialism.

1 comment:

John said...

Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski about how the US provoked the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and starting the whole mess

Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76*

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his
memoirs [From the Shadows], that American intelligence services
began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the
Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national
security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a
role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history,
CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say,
after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the
reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise:
Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the
first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet
regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the
president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid
was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action.
But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and
looked to provoke it?

Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to
intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they

Question: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting
that they intended to fight against secret involvement of the
United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them.
However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea.
It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and
you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially
crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We
now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.
Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war
unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about
the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic
fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The
Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up
Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the
cold war?**

Question: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated:
Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in
regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam.
Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or
emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5
billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi
Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism,
Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more
than what unites the Christian countries.

* There are at least two editions of this magazine; with the
perhaps sole exception of the Library of Congress, the version
sent to the United States is shorter than the French version, and
the Brzezinski interview was not included in the shorter version.

** It should be noted that there is no demonstrable connection
between the Afghanistan war and the breakup of the Soviet Union
and its satellites.

This interview was translated from the French by William Blum,
Author of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions
Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only
Superpower". Portions of the books can be read at:
http://members.aol.com/superogue/homepage.htm (with a link to
Killing Hope)