Green Left Weekly, October 16, 2010

The war on Afghanistan: a crime against humanity

Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan does not pose as great a threat to the Afghan people as does the suffering caused by the occupiers

The following statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on October 8.

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Anti-war protest in Hollywood
Anti-war protesters at a demonstration on the 9th anniversary of the Afghanistan war outside an armed forces recruiting station in Hollywood on October 6, 2010. The war in Afghanistan is increasingly unpopular with the US public, but upcoming elections may hand new power to lawmakers who are pressing for a robust, long-term military commitment. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP)

On October 17, 2001, the Liberal/National Coalition government of John Howard deployed Australian troops to Afghanistan, just nine days after the US had begun bombing one of the most poverty-stricken and war-weary nations on Earth.

The then newly-formed Socialist Alliance responded to this attack and its reputed catalyst, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, by noting the US' hypocrisy and pledging to campaign against then president George W. Bush's “war without end”.

“We are ready to play a part in mobilising the broadest possible opposition to any attempt by US policies and their global allies to use the tragedy as a pretext for military aggression”, we said.

Since then, the Socialist Alliance has maintained its opposition to Australia's commitment to the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. We have continued to seek ways to build community opposition to this war and the Iraq war — an opening that could become greater when federal parliament starts its debate.

This October marks the 10th year since the US and its allies, including Australia, invaded Afghanistan. The bombing of the poorest country in the world by some of the richest is a crime against humanity. The real purpose of this crime is to further US power in the region.

Its initial legal justification has been called into question since the US and Britain’s use of United Nations Article 51 prevents any self-defence that continues after an attack.

Furthermore, the right of self-defence relates to attacks by other nation states, not criminal activity, such as terrorism.

Despite what Western leaders have claimed, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan did not sponsor the 9/11 attacks. The Al-Qaeda leadership was based in Afghanistan, but the terrorists who carried out the attacks (none of whom were Afghan) were residents of Germany and the US.

Recent reports even suggest the Taliban may have tried to warn of the 9/11 attacks and curtail the activities of Al-Qaeda.

Ironically, the US has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism against Afghanistan since the 1970s. Al-Qaeda is a US-created terrorist outfit that went rogue.

Afghanistan has been called "the graveyard of empires". In the past, insurgent groups in Afghanistan have defeated all invaders. The same will happen with the current war — the longest for Australia since Vietnam.

The Taliban is part of the blowback from the Russian war in Afghanistan. Even Hillary Clinton admits it was one of the jihadist groups, which, as ally, was “emboldened, trained and equipped” and not deemed a security risk to the US or its allies.

Taliban expansion will continue, often with complicity of the Afghan people as a result of their increasing disgust with the brutal and corrupt Kabul government, the rising civilian deaths from the US-led forces, particularly though air strikes, and their own dispossession and hopelessness.

Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan does not pose as great a threat to the Afghan people as does the suffering caused by the occupiers, or the constant bombings by unmanned predator drones launched from bases in the US.

Al Qaeda has greatly reduced its numbers in Afghanistan. In a June interview on US ABC TV, CIA chief Leon Panetta said the number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was “at most … 50-100”.Insurgent groups continue to form to fight the occupying armies’ support for the corrupt Hamid Karzai government, lawless warlords and their connection to the venal Pakistani Intelligence Agency. (See the Wikileaks Afghanistan War Diaries for more evidence of this.)

The brave Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA) links the current rise in fundamentalism, lawlessness, poverty and rape directly to the occupation.

Besieged by extreme weather, in a country whose infrastructure has been smashed by conflict, many Afghan people have little chance of surviving past the age of 43.

Apologists for Australian troops remaining in Afghanistan claim they are there to “finish the job”. This, apparently, means training the Afghan army and police so they can maintain the corrupt and drug-lord linked Karzai government, which was installed undemocratically by the US and allied invaders. This dubious "job" may never be finished.

The Karzai regime is protected by foreign troops and private mercenaries rather than by the ragged Afghan army or police. These forces are either the private warlord militias (in new uniforms) or people looking for some pay to feed their families. Many desert. Others shoot their “mentors”.

Rosy views of Australia’s involvement as helping the Afghan people are now being challenged by the September decision to court-martial members of an Australian Special Operations Task Group for the murder of two adults and four children near the village of Sarmorghab in Oruzgan province in 2009.

Labor and the Coalition insist Australia's national security would be at stake if the troops were withdrawn. But Afghanistan has never threatened Australia.

However, protracted Western wars of aggression, occupation and terror against poor Muslim nations like Afghanistan will continue to provoke the level of resentment that can lead to terrorism by groups and individuals in many countries.

These wars are acts of sustained state terror, which are provoking individual acts terror of in response. This is why defence commentators admit the troop surge and endless war of occupation not only helps to destabilise Afghanistan and Pakistan, but are a threat to global security.

Life for Afghan women, whom supporters of the war claim to want to protect, continues to deteriorate in Taliban and non-Taliban areas. Karzai has made it legal for husbands to rape their wives, and recent reports indicate a rising number of attempts at self-immolation.

A September report by the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Trends in Maternal Mortality said that after nearly a decade of donor-funded health projects, there has been only a small reduction in maternal and child mortality.

Last year, UNICEF ranked Afghanistan the worst of 202 countries in terms of maternal, infant and child mortality.

We must force the Australian government to withdraw the troops. Sixty-one percent of Australians want them brought home. The views of most Australians should not be ignored for the sake of the US-Australia Alliance.

But Australia should not walk away from this war-ravaged country. The Gillard government must provide funding and aid to the people of Afghanistan (not the corrupt bureaucrats — Afghan or Western). War reparations would allow the Afghan people to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Australia must also open its doors to those Afghan refugees who want to come here. This is the least this country can do after having helped create mass dislocation and displacement.

Finally, politicians must stop politically manipulating this ongoing tragedy. The debate — which the ALP has been forced to have — must extend well beyond parliament. It will not be a debate if, as PM Julia Gillard wants, it is framed within a call for “support for the troops”.

The purpose of framing the “debate” this way is to use blind and misplaced nationalist sentiment to silence any argument that exposes the Australian and other foreign military intervention in Afghanistan as the criminal and anti-people war that it really is.

It’s time for the silent majority to make their views known, and force an end to this bipartisan madness in which tens of thousands, if not more, have been killed for no good reason.

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