Afghanistan: The 'good war' from hell

Issue 

When the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, several pretexts were given.

One of these was fighting the "war on drugs". In the eight years of occupation that have followed, production of narcotics has increased by 4500%. Afghanistan is now responsible for over 90% of the world's illegal opiates.

The combination of readily available opiates, lack of legal medicines, and the poverty and violence of constant war has also created an epidemic of drug addiction within Afghanistan. "There are at least 200,000 opium and heroin addicts in Afghanistan — 50,000 more than in the much bigger, wealthier US", the August 6 Toronto Star said.

The other stated aims of the foreign occupation have achieved similar dismal results.

Democratic?

The August 20 presidential elections were touted as evidence of its success in bringing democracy. However, on September 10, Afghanistan's United Nations-appointed Electoral Complaints Commission asked the Independent Electoral Commission to invalidate the results of 83 polling stations.

A September 11 Reuters article said the results of a further 447 polling stations were being investigated, a number likely to rise to 650.

In some provinces, the September 8 Age said, the number of votes reported in favour of incumbent President Hamid Karzai was 10 times the number of people who voted.

Karzai secured votes from polling stations that were fictitious. In areas where the threat of Taliban violence kept voter numbers low, high turnouts (with high margins for Karzai) were nonetheless recorded.

The August 25 Washington Post quoted local politician Faizullah Mojadedi as stating: "In Baraki Barak District, only about 500 people were able to vote out of 43,000 registered voters. In Harwar District, nobody at all was able to vote out of 15,000 registered voters.

"Yet the ballot boxes from these places came to Kabul full. The fact that people were afraid to vote became a big excuse for those who wanted to take advantage of it."

However, even without the ballot-box stuffing, the elections were not remotely democratic. It is not possible to have a free and democratic vote under conditions of brutal foreign military occupation.

This is indicated by the two leading candidates. Karzai, for instance, became president after literally flying into Afghanistan with the invading US forces in 2001.

Before being imposed by the occupiers as president, Karzai was a consultant for US fossil fuel corporation Unocal and engaged in unsuccessful negotiations with the Taliban to build a gas pipeline.

His main challenger in the poll, Abdullah Abdullah, was one of the warlords who devastated the country between 1992 and 1996.

The US-armed and funded victors of the war against the Soviet occupation turned on each other and the civilian population. The Taliban ultimately prevailed.

Abdullah joined the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, which controlled 15% of the country under Taliban rule (but all its heroin production).

When the US-led forces invaded, the Taliban was rapidly driven from power by a combination of devastating air bombardments and making common cause with the Northern Alliance warlords (bribing them with weapons and money).

US ambassador Zalmay Khalizad (also a former Unocal negotiator) brought Karzai in to head a government that was, and remains, an uneasy coalition of warlords and drug barons.

The Karzai government serves as both a puppet for the occupation forces and a forum for pro-occupation warlords who rule their own private fiefdoms. It does not govern Afghanistan.

Women's rights

Another pretext for the invasion and occupation was the Taliban's brutal oppression of women. Wives of Western leaders, such as US "first lady" Laura Bush, became sudden converts to feminism.

They said the invasion was necessary to liberate Afghan women. The reality is very different.

The Northern Alliance warlords share the Taliban's ideology of misogyny justified by religious fundamentalism. Under Afghan law, rape within marriage is legal and a wife running away from her husband is punishable with jail.

Rape outside marriage is treated as adultery — making the victim vulnerable to prosecution.

Forced marriage and child marriage are common, increasingly so as poverty created by ongoing war forces families to sell their children.

The prevalence of corruption means powerful figures can rape with impunity. A July 30 InterPress Service article said the level of violence against women by pro-occupation warlords, that in some regions it a reason people joined the Taliban.

It is not only women who are victims of sexual violence. A July 29 IPS article described complaints by villagers in Helmand province that US and British forces left policing in the hands of a brutal local warlord whose militia was notorious for raping pre-teen boys.

Women and children also suffer disproportionately from the poverty that the war and occupation has created, and from direct attacks by occupation forces on civilians.

Western military spokespeople and media often report the results of air strikes (including across the border in Pakistan) with impressive bodycounts of "Taliban insurgents", "al-Qaeda leaders" and "foreign fighters". However, if local or international media reach the scene, the victims turn out to be mostly civilians.
This was the case with the occupation forces' bombing of two stolen oil tankers in northern Kunduz province on September 4.

The German military (which called the air strike after losing the tankers to the Taliban) are sticking by the claim that all those killed were Taliban or foreign (Chechen) terrorists, but US leaders have, after initial denials, promised to investigate reports of civilian deaths.

Pajhwok Afghan News reported on September 5 that all the 150 dead were civilians. A September 9 RAWA News article said the Taliban abandoned the trucks after becoming bogged in mud. By the time of the air strike, the scene was crowded with villagers siphoning the valuable fuel.

The article also said villagers were hostile to both the occupation forces and the Taliban.

The total number of civilians killed directly by the occupation forces since 2001 is unknown. However, RAWA News reported a 20% increase in the first six months of 2009 compared with 2008.

This is a result of US President Barack Obama's troop surge, which has also caused a doubling in the number of occupation soldiers killed.

Obama (and Australian PM Kevin Rudd) have tried to make a distinction between Bush's "bad" war in Iraq and the "good" war in Afghanistan. However, most people in the main occupying countries (the US, Britain, Germany, Canada and Australia) are opposed to the war and opposition is growing.

This may have been the motivation behind the British government approving a spectacular commando raid to free British journalist Stephen Farrell, who, with Afghan colleague Sultan Munadi, was kidnapped by the Taliban while investigating the Kunduz massacre. Negotiations were in progress to free them.

The September 10 London Times quoted a "Western official" as saying: "It was totally heavy-handed. If they'd showed a bit of patience and respect they could have got both of them out without firing a bullet."

The Times said angry protests by Afghan media workers were held because Munadi was killed during the rescue. At least one other civilian, a British commando and an undisclosed number of Taliban were also killed during the rescue.

This is not a "good" war for any noble principle. It is a bloody and brutal war for imperial control. The victims are the impoverished, war-weary ordinary Afghan people. It should be ended.