There is an old saying about Afghanistan that goes something like this: when God wishes to punish someone, He sends them to attack the Afghans. The US and its ally, Britain, have blundered into Afghanistan on the pretext of fighting terrorism, but in reality to advance Western interests. They have now been joined by Canada as well in trying to subdue a growing resistance that until a few months ago appeared to be ebbing. Given the number of resistance operations and their sophistication, the occupation forces are beginning to realise that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
The Western invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, as indeed of Palestine by Israel, are colonial enterprises launched under the pretext of fighting terrorism, promoting democracy and undertaking "reconstruction", in particular in Afghanistan and Iraq. There has been little or no reconstruction anywhere, only killing of civilians in both countries. Colonialists have historically masked their brutal policies in moral tones; the white man's civilising mission from the days of direct colonialism has been repackaged as a "reconstruction effort" today. Regardless of the terminology used, the experiences of the colonised masses have changed little; they continue to be brutalised and humiliated. Whether at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay or in the unknown gulags operated by America's stooges around the world, the treatment meted out to detainees is the same: beatings, torture, rape and murder.
What has changed is that the colonized are no longer prepared to put up with such brutality passively. Resistance to occupation is taking various forms, almost all of it vilified by the colonialists, but the oppressed are not dissuaded by such propaganda any more. In fact, increasing numbers of people in the West have also started to speak out against the policies of their own governments. Such opposition, although it is welcome, will not in itself prevent these governments from pursuing such oppressive policies; it must go hand in hand with effective resistance against the occupiers. Americans, for instance, would have paid little attention to what was going on in Iraq had it not been for the casualties suffered by American troops inIraq. War costs have also helped to convince many Americans of the futility of the war in Iraq.
While much of the international community's angst has rightly been directed at US policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, voices of dissent are beginning to be raised even in Canada, which is a two-bit player on the international scene. Canadian troops were deployed in Afghanistan surreptitiously by the former minority Liberal government last year. The new Conservative government, also a minority, has not only continued but extended this policy. There is also a clear escalation in the macho rhetoric emanating from Canada's military establishment. Canadian chief of defence staff General Rick Hillier echoed his American counterparts when he declared last year that his troops were going to Afghanistan to "kill the scumbags". Many Canadians were appalled by this racist cant and asked why the political leadership and parliament had abdicated their responsibilities and left policy formulation to the military, but the corporate media applauded the macho talk. The fact is that Canadian politicians of all stripes also subscribe to such a policy in order to ingratiate themselves with the hawks in Washington. They argue that because Canada depends on the US for trade, and therefore economic survival, it has little choice but to support Washington's militarist policy. This is a flawed argument; governments are elected to represent the wishes of the majority: in Canada only a tiny minority favours such a significant policy shift as warmongering instead of ‘peacemaking' by the Canadian military.
The only "scumbags" Canadian troops have managed to kill so far are Afghan soldiers by "friendly fire" and civilians "by mistake". Naturally, they can do no wrong even if the troops are scared out of their wits in a land where the people cannot distinguish between Americans or any other foreign occupation forces. The Canadians have not escaped unscathed either; four soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb on April 22 near Gombad in Qandahar province. Borrowing a page from the Americans' manual in dealing with war casualties, the Canadian government banned media coverage of the ceremony when the soldiers' bodies arrived in Canada on April 26. Nor were flags lowered to half-mast; some things are best kept away from the public view. The shabby treatment meted out to their soldiers drew rare rebuke from the Canadian media, which had hitherto supported the militarist policy.
Despite the presence of some 30,000 foreign occupation troops, who have allegedly trained 70,000 Afghan soldiers since the Taliban were removed from power in November 2001, the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. In many provinces bandits and warlords have made life intolerable for ordinary people. Rape and murder of women and abduction of children, as well as drug-production, have all escalated. Many warlords and drug-barons are members of the so-called parliament; perhaps this is what George Bush means by democracy in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is commonly referred to as the "mayor of Kabul"; even this may be too charitable a description: he is not even in charge of the presidential palace, where he is virtually a prisoner of his American guards and handlers. His Dracula-style gown impresses no one; the people regard him as an American puppet. The Afghans may be poor (in fact, extremely poor) but they are a proud people and do not take kindly to others lording it over them.
Nobody has ever subdued the Afghans in their entire history. Neither the Americans and their British and Canadian allies nor any other combination of military forces is going to do so either. Resistance to foreign occupation is intensifying and is becoming much better coordinated. The provinces of Paktia, Khost, Helmand and Zabul are completely out of the government's control; they are being administered by the Taliban or their allies. The coming months will probably bring increased resistance to foreign occupation. This is bound to lead to even more casualties among foreign troops, not to mention the killing of civilians by the occupiers, no doubt each time "by mistake".