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U.S./NATO bombs slaughter Afghan civilians

Published Jul 1, 2007 11:25 PM

Long-range attacks by U.S. and NATO forces, both air strikes and artillery fire, killed more than 100 Afghan civilians—mainly women, children and old men—in a 10-day period in late June.

These deaths have caused such a fury among the Afghan people that Hamid Karzai, the president installed by the U.S. with the blessing of NATO, had to call a press conference on the lawn of the presidential palace to denounce the attacks.

Karzai said, “You don’t fight a terrorist by firing a field gun from 37 kilometers away into a target. That is definitely bound to cause civilian casualties. You don’t hit a few terrorists with field guns.”

Before Karzai was anointed president of Afghanistan, he was a consultant for Unocal, the U.S. oil company that wanted to build a pipeline linking Turkmenistan and Pakistan, which would allow billions of dollars of natural gas from what used to be part of the Soviet Union to be sold on the capitalist world market. Karzai was such a U.S. creation that the bodyguards protecting him until 2005 were U.S. mercenaries, who didn’t leave until they had trained a special group of Afghans to take over.

All throughout his reign in Kabul from 2002 on, Karzai has protested against U.S. and NATO “excesses,” but not to much avail, since they still continue. Even the Associated Press reported on June 23 that U.S. and NATO forces have killed at least 203 civilians so far this year, while the Afghan resistance has killed 178 civilians.

This report was picked up by over 1,300 newspapers throughout the world. There are now contingents from over 37 countries in Afghanistan, though few of them are soldiers on the ground. The U.S. and other NATO governments are pressuring other imperialist powers and also client states to provide additional troops. The ruling group in Japan, whose constitution prohibits sending its armed forces abroad, has indicated it is willing to change its constitution.

The oil and natural gas resources in Central Asia, including those of the Caspian Sea, are largely unexploited but are believed to be the second largest in the world after the Persian Gulf. The governments participating in the occupation of Afghanistan are looking for a share of those resources.

Canada is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. It has sent significant forces to Afghanistan, which has aroused a significant protest movement within Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has allied closely to the U.S., nevertheless had to promise that “this mission will end in February 2009,” while speaking on June 23 at a public ceremony in Quebec City to send a new Canadian brigade to Afghanistan.

Of course, Harper would like Canada to stay in Afghanistan because he wants a share in what is at stake there. Washington insists that all who want to get a share in imperialist plunder of the region share in the military intervention, from Britain and Spain to Germany and even Poland, all of which have contingents in Afghanistan.

Wall Street’s economic and financial stakes in Afghanistan, namely grabbing the vulture’s share of these reserves, are so high that the Pentagon has maintained a sizable force there—10,000 to 18,000 troops—even though its ground forces are stretched to the maximum with the occupation of Iraq.

The geostrategic position of Afghanistan is also highly significant and this area was an area of imperialist interest and contention even before oil was involved.

As long ago as the middle of the 19th century, imperial Russia and imperial Britain were competing for control of Central Asia. Frederick Engels, who with Karl Marx founded scientific socialism, wrote an article in 1858 that is still relevant. Describing the British invasion of Afghanistan from its Indian colony, Engels said: “The conquest of Afghanistan seemed accomplished [in 1839] and a considerable portion of the troops was sent back. But the Afghans were no ways content to be ruled by the European infidels, and during the whole of 1840 and 1841, insurrection followed on insurrection in every part of the country.”

The costs of the occupation proved to be so high that the British had to cut back on their payments to the local chiefs, now called warlords.

The very day that W. McNaghten, the executive assistant to the British governor general of India, did this, “the chiefs formed a conspiracy for the extermination of the British, and thus McNaghten himself was the means of bringing about the concentration of those insurrectionary forces, which hitherto had struggled against the invaders singly, and without unity or concert; though it is certain, too, that by this time the hatred of British dominion among the Afghans had reached the highest point.”