When the anti-war movement makes the argument that U.S. and NATO troops must get out of Afghanistan, liberal apologists for the war counter that without the troops, the country will fall under the control of the Taliban, and any improvements in the status of women or other “democratic” measures will be reversed.
The ironic thing is that today this argument is being used by U.S. officials against the current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who wants Washington to honor its promise to pull out its troops by the end of this year. It’s ironic because Karzai was groomed in the U.S. and put in office by the occupiers to do what they wanted.
But Karzai’s dilemma is that after enormous suffering and destruction, the Afghan people have come to detest the occupying troops so strongly that he has been losing ground to his opponents, and he may even fear for his own life if he lets the troops stay. So suddenly the news media in the imperialist countries are faulting Karzai’s commitment to “democracy.”
All this is total eyewash, meant to obscure the true character of the U.S. relation to Afghanistan. If “democracy” were the real objective of the U.S. imperialist foreign policy establishment, then why did it spend billions, beginning in 1979, to create, train and arm a so-called “Islamic” force, including those who would become the Taliban, that finally succeeded in tearing down Afghanistan’s best hope for a secular, democratic society?
The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan came to power in 1978 through a rebellion of lower-ranking soldiers, workers and civil servants, after the pro-Western government of Mohammad Daoud tried to crush the party. The soldiers actually broke into the prison and freed PDPA leaders, who had been jailed after leading massive demonstrations against police repression.
The PDPA had women leaders in its ranks. They helped frame laws that opened the schools to girls, abolished the bride price or dowry, and let women divorce their husbands. The CIA funded an army that killed young students, women and men, who went to teach at these newly created schools in the countryside. But these protégés of the CIA were called “freedom fighters” by the U.S. government and media.
The CIA intervention began in 1979, according to no less an authority than Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser at the time. It was this covert war that caused the Afghan government to call for Soviet military support in 1980. The timing of the U.S. intervention is corroborated by former CIA director Robert M. Gates in his book “From the Shadows.”
This history is totally distorted in the U.S. media, which claims the CIA went in to counter a “Soviet invasion.” But Brzezinski, in a 1998 interview with the French paper Le Nouvel Observateur, actually bragged that the U.S. succeeded in drawing the USSR into the conflict in order to weaken it.
Afghanistan crucial to U.S. capitalism’s current global ambitions
What lesson must we draw from all this? It is an old one, which V.I. Lenin analyzed in his book “Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” written during World War I.
Imperialism is not just a conspiracy of a few very rich people. It is the inevitable outgrowth of capitalism in its monopoly stage, when the means of production have become highly developed and finance capital — the banks and investment houses — has become dominant. It was the drive of capital to find new areas for investment and super-profits that spurred the growth of imperialism as a world system.
Whatever “development” it brings to the rest of the world is merely to further its own ends.
This is what has defined the relation of the U.S. to Afghanistan. Not just in a narrow sense, for the immediate profits they can wring out of this very underdeveloped country, but for what U.S. capital’s geopolitical strategists see as Afghanistan’s significance in relation to their global ambitions.
In 1979, they worried a great deal about the revolutions in Iran and Ethiopia, both of which closed U.S. military air bases that had been used to launch surveillance flights over the Soviet Union — one in Kagnew, Eritrea; the other in Iran under Project Dark Gene and Project Ibex.
Now there is no Soviet Union. Why is Afghanistan still so important to them that they risk alienating the very politicians they installed to run the country?
While we have no pipeline into the inner discussions at the NSA, it will be interesting to see what comes out in the Snowden leaks relating to Afghanistan. One thing is for sure. The U.S. is still in a very contentious relationship with Russia. Even though Russia has become a capitalist country, it is powerful enough to be a major rival to U.S. domination in that part of the world, which Wall Street saw as ripe for the picking two decades ago.
Perhaps more important is the “pivot to Asia” declared by President Barack Obama and pushed by the military-industrial-banking complex as a way to contain China, which still has many features of socialist development and has raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
But rights for women? That’s the last thing on the Pentagon’s mind, as the scandal over rapes in the military shows. And would they even think of invading Saudi Arabia?