Eight years ago today, on 9 September 2001, hijacked airplanes demolished the World Trade Center, in New York, crashed into the Pentagon complex and another plane missed failed to reach its target but was obliterated when it hit the ground in Pennsylvania. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives in these horrendous and indiscriminant attacks. The resulting enormous public revulsion was exploited by the Bush administration to launch a military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan within three months, ostensibly to remove the Taliban from power and to destroy Al Qaeda but also to enhance the interests of US imperialism and the big corporations in Central Asia and later the Middle East. Indeed, the so-called “war on terror” was the pretext for the bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, resulting in many thousands more deaths and widespread destruction.
Rather than bring peace, stability and an end to terrorism, as promised, eight years on, the US, Britain and other Nato and imperialist powers are bogged down in an unwinnable and increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan, while still overseeing the bloody wreckage of Iraq. Lives of many Afghan and Iraqi civilians are lost daily, as well as those of Western troops. These brutal occupations and the widespread attacks on democratic and human rights by the US and other powers, along with the poverty and oppression faced by the peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia, are only preparing the ground for future terrorist attacks.
Brett Hoven, from Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US), looks at the Afghan conflict, the consequences of the policy of US imperialism, and the growing anti-war mood of workers and youth in the US.
End the Occupation!
Brett Hoven, from Justice, newspaper of Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US)
9/11 terror attacks
Eight years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, the occupation continues to drag on with no end in sight. US casualties are on the rise, with July and August the two deadliest months since the beginning of the war.
The recent Afghan elections, which were supposed to legitimize the US-backed government and its “democratic” institutions, have instead exposed widespread corruption. Accusations of mass voter fraud and threats of violence, alongside low voter turnout, have undermined what little credibility remained for the Karzai government.
A renewed offensive in southern Afghanistan has led to increasing violence, as US and NATO troops attempt to force the Taliban out of their stronghold in Helmand Province. The new offensive is part of a new emphasis on using ground troops, following massive outrage at the deaths of thousands of civilians in indiscriminate aerial bombings by U.S. and NATO planes.
This new strategy will require substantially more soldiers, on top of the 21,000 already approved for Obama’s surge. There are currently 63,000 US troops in Afghanistan, nearly twice as many as at the beginning of the year (and joined by over 40,000 other foreign troops and 74,000 private US military contractors).
Anthony Cordesman, an adviser to General McChrystal, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, is recommending that as many as 45,000 additional US troops be sent, which would raise the total above 100,000 (Times (UK), 8/10/09).
Worth the sacrifice?
These developments have led to a dramatic decline in support for the war in Afghanistan. 54% of Americans now oppose the war (CNN, 8/6/09). Only 25% think more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.
Still, Vice President Joe Biden claims that the war in Afghanistan “is worth the effort we are making and the sacrifice.” (BBC News, 7/23/09) This flies in the face of reality. After eight years, billions of dollars have been sunk into Afghanistan, thousands of US soldiers have been killed or permanently disabled, and for what?
Malalai Joya, an outspoken 30-year-old women’s rights activist who was ousted from her position in the Afghan parliament by right-wing religious fundamentalists and warlords, describes Afghanistan after eight years of occupation: “Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords… While a showcase parliament has been created for the benefit of the US, in Kabul, the real power is with these fundamentalists who rule everywhere outside Kabul.” For women, “the situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban.” (Independent (UK), 7/28/09)
The war has been an unending nightmare for the ordinary people of Afghanistan. Poverty remains endemic. 53% of the population lives on less than $1 per day, and 77% lack access to clean water. Female literacy – at 13% - has barely improved on what it was under the reactionary rule of the Taliban. Afghans also face daily terror from NATO ground forces and unmanned drones, and their lives are dominated by corrupt warlords and the Taliban.
Yet, according to Biden, the war must go on because Afghanistan is “a place that, if it doesn’t get straightened out, will continue to wreak havoc on Europe and the United States.” But the brutal US occupation, along with the grinding poverty and oppression faced by the peoples of Central Asia and the Middle East, is only sowing the seeds for future terrorist attacks.
“Straightening out” Afghanistan will be a long, costly, and ultimately futile campaign. General Sir David Richards, the head of British forces in Afghanistan, believes it will take another 40 years of occupation before there will be stability (Telegraph (UK), 8/8/09).
As NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it (echoing the ‘White Man’s Burden’ rhetoric of the former British Empire), "America has just adopted Afghanistan as our new baby."
With a discredited US puppet regime, ruling through warlords and drug-traffickers guilty of all sorts of war crimes, “stability” means nothing more than a government strong enough to suppress dissent and defend the interests of US imperialism in the region. Is this really worth the sacrifice?
Obama – new “surge” in Afghanistan
Rebuild the anti-war movement
All of this shows clearly the need to rebuild the anti-war movement. A powerful anti-war movement in the US and around the world is of decisive importance in stopping the carnage in Afghanistan and preventing thousands upon thousands more troops from being sent off to kill and be killed in an unjust war.
The ground is being laid for such a movement. Millions voted for Obama and the congressional Democrats hoping they would end the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet now in power, the Democrats have frustrated these hopes by pursuing an imperialist foreign policy that is fundamentally the same as Bush’s, despite some difference in tactics.
Already, “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, has set up a vigil outside Obama’s vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard, just as she did outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Protests are also being organized across the country on October 7 and 17 against the wars.
As the Obama administration readies to request even more troops for Afghanistan, the majority who oppose the war must be mobilized in the streets against any escalation, as well as to demand an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.
So Much for Democracy and Liberation
US politicians never tire of talking about bringing democracy and liberation to the people of the Middle East and Central Asia.
Yet in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, home to an air base critical to the US war in Afghanistan, the NY Times reports: “Many opposition politicians and independent journalists have been arrested, prosecuted, attacked, and even killed over the last year as the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, consolidated control in advance of elections...The US has remained largely silent in response to this wave of violence, apparently wary of jeopardizing the status of its sprawling air base. Indeed, the Obama Administration has sought to woo the Kyrgyz president since he said in February that he would close the Manas base.” (7/23/09)
So much for hopes the Obama Administration would mean a kinder, gentler US foreign policy.