'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Free Fire Zone Afghanistan (Part 5) 

The United Nations confirms that 90 people, including 60 children, were killed as a result of a US/NATO airstrike last Friday in Herat province. I guess that, in a perverse way, you could say that the US and NATO honored the service of those 10 French troops killed a few day earlier.

I have perused the New York Times, the Guardian and the Independent, over the last several days, and encountered few articles about the incident beyond those generated by wire services. Interestingly, the Times took the most interest, although all emphasized the Afghan government response, a demand for a formal treaty authorizing the presence of NATO forces and the firing of two Afghan generals involved in the operation, than they did the incident itself.

Apparently, the media assumes that, for us, the lives of Afghans are relatively insignificant in comparison to larger geopolitical concerns, especially when it appears that one of our surrogates is trying to slip the leash. As I said in May 2007:

One wonders if NATO is subjecting the Afghans to the kinds of indiscriminate, violent brutalities that occupation forces have inflicted upon people so often in the past when it is no longer possible to evade recognition of defeat.

I don't think that we have to wonder about this anymore. As reported by lenin, the number of monthly airstrikes in Afghanistan has increased from about 500 a month last summer to over 2000 a month now. He also astutely observes that, if elected, Obama will receive favorable responses to requests for more troops from other countries. He additionally informs us that progressives, whatever that means, appear to be supportive of such a course.

Sadly, there are few who recognize that we can't get out of Iraq by trading off the lives of Afghans. Seamus Milne is one of them, as he recently confronted the pervasive myth that Afghanistan is the good war in contrast to the bad one in Iraq:

The original aims of the invasion, it will be recalled, were the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the destruction of al-Qaida in the aftermath of 9/11. None of those aims has been achieved. Instead, the US and its friends brought back to power an alliance of brutal and corrupt warlords, gave them new identities as democrats with phoney elections, and drove the Taliban and al-Qaida leaderships over the border into Pakistan.

Far from reducing the threat of terrorism, this crucible of the war on terror has simply spread it around the region, bringing forth an increasingly potent campaign of resistance and giving a new lease of life to a revamped Taliban as a champion of Pashtun nationalism. And as mission creep has detached the Afghan war from its original declared target of al-Qaida - let alone the claims made about women's rights, which have been going into grim reverse again in much of the country under Nato tutelage - it has morphed into the kind of war of "civilisation" evoked by Sarkozy and Browne, a certain recipe for conflict without end. No wonder British politicians have talked about digging in for decades.

I concur with his pessimistic assessment of the future:

The only way to end the war is the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of a political settlement negotiated with all the significant players in the country, including the Taliban, and guaranteed by the regional powers and neighbouring states. A large majority of Afghans say they back negotiations with the Taliban, even in western-conducted opinion polls. The Taliban themselves insist they will only talk once foreign troops have withdrawn. If that were the only obstacle, it could surely be choreographed as a parallel process. But given the scale of commitments made by the US and Nato, the fire of the Afghan war seems bound to spread further.

Milne cannot, however, bring himself to say the unmentionable. US policies in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s exploded in Pennsylvania and New York City on 9/11. Is it possible that something similar will happen again? As long as Americans retain an alarming complacency about killing people in other countries, I would have to say that the answer to this question is yes.

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