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Democrats change pretexts for war on Afghanistan

Published Jul 24, 2009 7:40 PM

Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture in Afghanistan has brought that war into living rooms across the United States. The heavy media coverage should lead to the U.S. population rethinking Washington’s arguments for invading and occupying Afghanistan and now escalating the war there.

The first thing is to reject the Pentagon’s condemnation of Pfc. Bergdahl’s captors for showing him on video, something Washington has done regularly with the captives at Guantanamo. The bulk of the original 2002 Guantanamo prisoners were accused of fighting alongside the Taliban government against the U.S. invasion in 2001-2002.

The second is to consider that Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen has threatened to kill Bergdahl “if foreign troops continue targeting civilians in the name of search operations in Ghazni and Paktika provinces.” (CNN, July 20)

The Pentagon claims it is not targeting civilians. But the Pentagon is notorious for lying about its operations. In May it tried to cover up civilian deaths in Farah province by blaming them on the Taliban, but then had to admit that U.S. military strikes caused them. The Pentagon expressed concern that the civilian deaths were strengthening the resistance to the U.S.-led occupation. (Los Angeles Times, May 19)

The third is to think of what this all means. U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is scheduled to expand from its current 57,000 to 68,000 by the end of 2009. U.S. Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has implied he may ask for more troops, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not ruled out an increase. Already the costs are high, with the U.S. spending $100 million a day on military intervention and a meager $7 million a day on civilian material aid.

This all takes place while 4,000 U.S. Marines are carrying out a major offensive in Helmand province. The Taliban and other Afghan resistance forces have avoided direct clashes with the heavily-armed Marines. But the battles ensure heavy civilian casualties and some casualties among the occupation troops. Fifteen British troops were killed in the first two weeks of July, and there have been two suspicious “civilian” helicopter crashes.

A pattern similar to the Iraqi one is developing regarding the escalation of the U.S.-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan. More troops mean more overall casualties and usually mean increased resistance, along with greatly increased suffering of the population. In Iraq, after more than six years with over 130,000 U.S. troops still there along with a like number of “civilian contractors”—that is, mercenaries carrying out tasks earlier assigned to the military—the U.S. occupation has been stalemated if not defeated.

A ‘Democratic war’

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the George W. Bush administration blamed Al-Qaeda for the casualties, and attacked Afghanistan allegedly to punish that group and its leaders. Because the ruling Taliban had sheltered Al-Qaeda, according to Bush’s story, the U.S. had to drive them from power.

Unable or unwilling to aggressively pursue Al-Qaeda’s leaders, the Bush administration turned its attention to seizing Iraq and its fabulous oil wealth. Afghanistan remained occupied, but Iraq got the attention. Washington pushed other NATO countries to supply additional troops to Afghanistan as the price for sitting at the table of imperialist plunder—to be invited to the G8 meetings, for example.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama had promised to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, ostensibly to finish the job of breaking up Al-Qaeda. He has kept the promise of escalating, and now many are calling Afghanistan “Obama’s war.” (Time, July 5) But lately little has been heard about crushing Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden has virtually disappeared from the news.

Women in Afghanistan: setting the record straight

With the Democrats now directing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and expanding the Afghan war into Pakistan, they’ve begun to change the pretexts. By mid-July former Democratic national chairperson Howard Dean was telling Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman that the U.S. had to stay in the war “for the sake of women in Afghanistan and all around the globe.” Vice President Joe Biden has also pushed this position.

It’s true that the Taliban’s program for women is reactionary. So too, however, is the program supported by the U.S.-backed Afghan regime, which is made up of the same warlords who fought for power with each other and the Taliban in the 1990s and which killed women who taught and studied during the period the progressive pro-socialist regime ruled in Kabul after the 1978 revolution.

Biden and Dean should be reminded that it was under Democratic President Jimmy Carter that the U.S. adopted the policy of supporting, with arms and money, warlords, Islamic fundamentalists and anyone who would fight against the pro-socialist government and later against Soviet troops. That progressive government—which Washington treated as an enemy—passed laws giving equal rights to women and providing education. There were few complaints by U.S. politicians and media when the U.S.-backed gangs murdered the teachers.

Imperialist strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, an architect of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy and the plan to turn the Afghan reactionaries against the USSR, admitted in Le Nouvel Observateur (France) in a Jan. 15-21, 1998, article that he began this plan six months before the Soviet Union sent in troops and that weakening the USSR was “well worth” building up the reactionary fundamentalist groups—like Al-Qaeda.

Many non-Pentagon reports from Kabul agree that plenty of the same old warlords Washington backed in the anti-Soviet crusade are back allied with the U.S.-backed regime in Afghanistan. Afghan women’s groups complain about the regime at least as much as they do about the Taliban. (see rawa.org)

The lesson of it all is that the sooner the U.S. and NATO get out of Afghanistan, the better.