by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 8, Rajab, 1431)
It was exactly nine years ago that US-led western forces invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The ostensible reason was to avenge the attacks of 9/11.
It was exactly nine years ago that US-led western forces invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The ostensible reason was to avenge the attacks of 9/11. For the West, revenge is not only justified but necessary; the victims of US and western aggression dare not even contemplate such thoughts. Only western lives matter. Such racism aside, immediately after 9/11, then US President George Bush had issued a blunt warning: “You are either with us or against us.” Faced with such stark choice issued by a mad superpower, most Muslim rulers ran for cover; they knew where their interests lay. How many tanks, planes or dollars did the Taliban have? In any case, only three countries—Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — had recognized their regime.
Driving the Taliban from power was easy; only 12 US soldiers died in the operations. It has been anything but easy-going ever since, especially in the last five years. Gradually, the Taliban regrouped and have since regained the initiative. Despite 150,000 foreign occupation troops and an equal number of hired mercenaries, the US and its allies have found the going extremely tough. Life for ordinary Afghans has become unbearably harsh; today there is less security, more violence and more corruption than ever before in Afghan history.
In recent years, there has been much talk of getting the Taliban onboard for some kind of a power-sharing deal. If the US were winning, would it be offering the Taliban a deal? Talk about talks, power-sharing and making a deal all reflect the fact that the US has lost the war in Afghanistan. True, there are allegations that the Pakistanis are not doing enough to help stem the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan. Is Pakistan a superpower whose military has single-handedly defeated the US and its NATO allies? The Americans always find others to blame for their failures.
Their brutal campaign of murder and killing of innocent civilians has been the single most important factor in turning the overwhelming majority of people against the occupiers. Besides, no people like to have foreign troops on their soil. The Americans also have an attitude problem; they do not care about other people’s lives or well-being. Their total disregard for Afghan cultural sensitivities has fuelled resentment even among otherwise apolitical Afghans.
These problems have been compounded by rampant corruption among Afghan officials and the massive drug trade in which almost all top officials, including President Hamid Karzai’s brother, are involved. The US itself finances and protects drug kingpins and warlords. Publicly, US officials decry the rampant corruption but the US military pays extortion money to warlords for safe passage for their convoys carrying goods and weapons to forward bases. Failure to pay such extortion money results in convoys being blown up.
This is the internal situation in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan — together with that in Iraq — has bankrupted the US. With an internal debt of some $14 trillion and an internal debt of another $38 trillion, the US is no longer able to pay for these wars or for the rising number of unemployed. The number of poor people in the US has risen to 44 million from 38 million two years ago. Its infrastructure is crumbling and there is no money to repair it. The US Federal Reserve Bank — a private institution owned and controlled by robber barons — continues to print dollars but how long can this racket go on. The optimistic statements issued in the wake of the financial meltdown in October 2008 to bail out failing US banks and corporations have been exposed as fraudulent. The economy has not rebounded; and the number of unemployed has not declined. The rise of the Tea Party movement with its lunatic jingoism is the direct result of public anger about economic uncertainty, which itselft has been craftily exploited by rightwing politicians for their narrow selfish ends.
Vladamir Lenin, the Russian marxist revolutionary, once said that the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with. In this sense, because of the oil in Central Asia and the Islamic East (all areas where Muslims are in a majority), the United States finds itself trapped in Afghanistan in particular and in the Islamic East in general. For all of its history, the US capitalist economic program has been based on theft and corruption, first of the resources of the native Americans, then South America, and then the rest of the world. It has always had a zero in the debit column of its balance sheet, and to pull this off, it has always needed overwhelming military force to steal the resources that fuel its industries.
Americas wars, especially since the beginning of the 20th century, have always been dollar wars for cheap or free resources and for markets open to class-oriented capitalism. If the United States simply decides to leave Afghanistan, and finds that for the first time in its history, it has to pay a fair price for the resources it needs, then it is doomed, at least as a superpower, if even as a regional power. It it decides to stay, then also it is doomed because the costs of occupation are and will be insurmountable, even for the largest and most productive economy in the world. There are not enough resources in the world under the feet of those with unlimited patience to endure perpetual cycles of poverty and serial dislocations to feed a military industrial complex whose appetite is now insatiable. So no matter how the US looks at its predicatment, it is economically and politically finished — and its military power will soon follow suit.
All this has resulted from the foolish policies of Bush and his neocon instigators, and the “change” brought about by Obama and his neo-liberal chicken hawks. Afghanistan has once again lived up to its reputation as the graveyard of empires.