Reject the excuses for imperialist war in Afghanistan

By Kenneth J. Theisen
On October 7, 2001 the U.S. launched “Operation Enduring Freedom,” or what has become to be known as the Afghanistan War. Within months, the Bush regime thought that this war was won by U.S. imperialism. But much like the sign on the aircraft carrier that stated “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, victory has proven to be illusory in Afghanistan as well. The Bush regime left office last month without victory in that country. But the Obama administration, as the new representative of U.S. imperialism, is intent on winning the Afghanistan war. Obama portrays the war in this Central Asian country as the good war or the real war on terror. On February 17th he announced that he will deploy at least 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, many Obama supporters, including even some progressives, have bought into the arguments that justify the continuation and even the escalation of this war. As I write this, the Obama administration is conducting a high-level review of this war and how to achieve victory for U.S. imperialism there. But victory for U.S. imperialism, even if possible, is not in the interests of the Afghanistan population or the people of the world.
We need to examine some of the reasons—excuses--given to justify this war and its continuation.
#1: The good war against the real terrorists
Various apologists for the war in Afghanistan provide several justifications for it, the most of which is that this war is the good war against the real terrorists. Obama referred to it as "the central front in our battle against terrorism" in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview.  According to our new president, "I think one of the biggest mistakes we've made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job. ... We got distracted by Iraq." We are supposed to believe that in Afghanistan the U.S. is fighting the real terrorists who attacked the American people on 9/11. In order for the American people to be safe, these terrorists must be defeated. But this big lie is an excuse for pursuing U.S. imperialist interests.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had nothing to do with responding to the 9/11attacks, even though the Bush regime portrayed them as defensive actions in the so-called “war on terror.” Both wars were launched as wars for greater U.S. empire. The intent of these wars was to defeat reactionary Islamic fundamentalist trends and groups that have posed serious obstacles to U.S. hegemony, to overthrow states not fully under U.S. control, and to restructure the Middle East and Central Asian regions in order to deepen U.S. domination. The Bush regime wanted to seize deeper control of key sources and shipment routes of strategic energy supplies and establish new military bases and beachheads as part of a conscious plan to establish a global empire.
Afghanistan is one front in this regional and global war because of its strategic location in Central Asia. This landlocked country borders Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The last three are former Soviet republics rich in energy and other natural resources. Iran is one of the obstacles that the U.S. would like to remove, with the goal of regime change being official U.S. policy. Pakistan is home to many of the Islamic fundamentalist forces the U.S. would like to defeat, not to mention being a nuclear power.
Long before 9/11, the U.S. was interested in dominating Afghanistan. A Pakistani diplomat told the BBC that he was informed of the U.S. intent to attack Afghanistan in mid-July of 2001 (see US ‘planned attack on Taleban’, September 18, 2001, Also, NBC News and MSNBC reported on May 16, 2002 that the White House was presented with a formal National Security Presidential Directive to attack al-Qaeda a couple days before 9/11 but that President Bush did not have the time to fully review and sign it before the actual attacks two days later. (See U.S. Sought Attack on Al-Qaida, White House Given Plans days before Sept. 11,
Intervention in Afghanistan did not start with the Bush regime. As far back as the Carter administration, the U.S. was actively conspiring and instituting military action against Afghanistan governments. The plan to be used in this intervention was to support and arm reactionary Islamic jihadists. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, bragged to an interviewer in 1998, “According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention…We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would…That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire…What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” (See “The CIAs Intervention in Afghanistan,”
During the Reagan administration the support for the so-called “freedom fighters” or Mujahidin increased to a half-billion dollars per year. Reagan pressured his Saudi Arabian allies to match the U.S. aid dollar for dollar. Among the recipients of this vast financial spigot were the people who eventually created al-Qaeda. (See
It is clear successive presidential administrations had no problem dealing with Islamic jihadists of the most reactionary kind. It only became a problem when these reactionaries, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, turned on their supporters in a classic case of what the CIA calls “blowback.” Suddenly the “freedom fighters” became “terrorists.” When the Islamic reactionaries were fighting U.S. imperialism’s enemies they were freedom fighters that deserved massive U.S. aid, but when they turned on their masters they were transformed into terrorists.
We are now supposed to believe that the defeat of these terrorists requires wars from Iraq to Afghanistan. Most importantly, we are supposed to accept that this requires the people of the U.S. to support U.S. imperialism in order to protect “our safety,” regardless of how many lives are sacrificed in other nations. How many Iraqis and Afghans must die and suffer to preserve “our safety?”
#2: Freeing the people of Afghanistan from reactionary rule?
Another reason given by the apologists for the Afghanistan war is that the Taliban are religious reactionary fundamentalists that oppress women, those of other religions, progressives, and the people of Afghanistan in general. The U.S. invaded to free the Afghan people from reactionary rule.
It is true that life under the Taliban was a living hell of reactionary religious strictures and suffocating social relations? The Taliban enforced feudal economic relations that kept Afghan peasants shackled and destitute. Occasionally the Taliban and U.S. agenda conflicted but the Taliban weren’t fundamentally opposed to imperialism’s overall domination of Afghanistan. Both parties were willing to deal with each other over oil pipelines and on other fronts. While Bush was governor of Texas in 1997, Taliban representatives were invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal which at the time was negotiating a pipeline through Afghanistan.
And despite Bush regime propaganda about the lack of women’s rights and other aspects of the Taliban reactionary rule, this did not bother the U.S. imperialists who regularly support reactionary regimes around the world and the suppression of women’s rights here in the U.S. The rise of the Taliban was partly due to the financial, organizational, and military support given to the Islamic Mujahadeen--which included the future Taliban forces--by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, as mentioned above. Much of this support was channeled through the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), one of the branches of Pakistan’s intelligence agency. After the Taliban came to power in the 1990s in much of Afghanistan, the U.S. directly supported them in the hope that the Taliban could unite the various and fractious forces within the country, better enabling the U.S. imperialists to achieve their goals in the country.
The decision by the reactionary Bush regime to invade Afghanistan had nothing to do with ridding Afghanistan of reactionary rulers or of bringing rights to the women of the country. U.S. imperialists did not attack to bring freedom, democracy, and economic wealth to the Afghan people. The purpose of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and to directly dominate and control Afghanistan to further the U.S. imperial agenda.
In the seven-plus years since the U.S. invasion, the people of Afghanistan continue to be under the domination of reactionaries--the only difference is that they are now reactionaries in the service of the U.S. The Karzai regime is a puppet government of the same hated landlords, militia heads, and feudal and tribal chieftains that have tormented the people of Afghanistan decade after decade. This regime represents and enforces the very oppressive, traditional feudal relations that have made life hell for the people, particularly for women. Corruption within the government is endemic. Opium production and trade makes up one-third of the country’s gross domestic product.
As before, women are still the most oppressed in Afghanistan. They have been given unenforced legal rights, but essentially remain imprisoned in oppressive, violent traditional relations and Islamic strictures. An Afghan woman dies during childbirth every 30 minutes; 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate; only 30 percent of girls have access to education; one-third of women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence; and 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages. For some reason, the U.S. propagandists who condemned the Taliban rule for its oppression of women are largely silent now that the U.S. is in charge.
#3: We broke it, now we must rebuild it
Still another reason given for continuing with the war in Afghanistan is the “you broke it, you bought it” rule. The argument is that even though the initial invasion was wrong, the U.S. now owes it to the Afghan people to rebuild the country. While Obama was campaigning for president he stated that in addition to sending more troops into Afghanistan, he would also emphasize more economic aid. But even during the Bush regime the Afghan people heard promises of economic aid and improvement from the U.S. government. What little aid is delivered to the country evaporates into a cauldron of corruption and is used to support the reactionary rulers of the country. A recent poll conducted by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research indicates that the vast majority of the Afghan population views public corruption as a major problem.
Apologists for the U.S. occupation would argue that at least the U.S. is making people in Afghanistan more secure. But in the above poll only 42% had confidence that the U.S. coalition forces could provide security in their areas. In the least secure areas, the poll could not even be conducted. One in six of those polled reported nearby bombing or shelling by U.S. forces in their area. One in five reported civilians being killed by U.S. coalition forces in the last year in the areas where they lived. (See “Poll shows Afghan faith in U.S. eroding”, Feb. 10, 2009,
While the destruction that the U.S. has brought to the people of Afghanistan certainly makes the U.S. morally responsible for compensation to the country, it is an illusion to believe that continuing occupation by the U.S. and its allies will actually bring about reconstruction in the interests of the Afghan people. Let us look at what seven-plus years of occupation has delivered.
While some corrupt government officials certainly improved their economic standing and Swiss bank accounts, the vast majority in the country continue to suffer. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Afghanistan ranks 174th of 178 nations in terms of economic well-being--only four other countries are poorer. Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in December 2008 reported that 37 percent (about ten million people) in Afghanistan suffer from severe poverty, with millions earning less than $1 per day. The U.S. State Department in 2008 reported the infant mortality rate as 154.67 deaths per 1,000 live births, and two percent of women giving birth die during the process. The U.S. State Department admits that at least three million Afghans are refugees in other countries, with most in Iran or Pakistan. Less than a quarter of the adult population is literate, with the U.S. State Department estimating that only 12 percent of females are literate. Life expectancy is only 43.1 years. The CIA’s World Fact Book estimates the unemployment rate for Afghanistan in 2008 as 40%.
It is clear that the U.S. has brought much death and destruction to the Afghan people and nation in the last seven years, but it is foolhardy to think that continuing U.S. occupation will “fix” this situation. More troops will only increase the death and destruction and the longer the U.S. and its allies remain, the longer the suffering will continue for the Afghan people.
#4: If the U.S. and it allies leave, the Taliban will return to power and it will be even worse than before the invasion
It is unclear exactly what portion of the country is now ruled by the Taliban, but it is true that it dominates many areas of Afghanistan. They and other fundamentalists are taking advantage of the chaos and misery created by the U.S. occupation and it puppet government. They are advancing their war and imposing their theocracy over more of the country and its people. The reactionary nature of the U.S. war and occupation has ended up reinforcing and fueling reactionary Islamic fundamentalism.
The Taliban are reactionaries and their rule is not in the interests of the Afghan people. But it is equally true that rule by the U.S., through its puppet allies, is also not in the interests of the Afghan population. The country is already fragmented and ruled by reactionaries of various sorts – drug lords, war lords, corrupt Karzai government politicians, etc. But the continuing U.S. war will not change this. Two historically outmoded and reactionary forces are in contention in the country--the Islamic fundamentalist forces led by the Taliban and the outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, led by the U.S. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. But supporting the U.S. imperialists to defeat the Taliban will not advance the interests of the Afghan people. Our choices are not limited to supporting the Taliban or supporting the U.S. imperialist in the war.
Look at what seven years of war and occupation has brought. Will more war bring a stable peace to the country? How? Ultimately, the Afghan people will have to deal with the Taliban and other reactionaries, and the longer the U.S. and its allies remain the longer the people will have to wait to resolve the situation themselves. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the U.S. presence will improve the lives of the Afghan people and seven-plus years of evidence show that life for the average Afghan will remain miserable as long as the U.S. remains in the country.
Demand U.S. withdrawal
When Obama announced his escalation of the Afghan war on February 17th he said, "I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action." He is right that the situation is urgent and demands swift action, but not in the way he meant. We must demand the removal of all U.S. forces, including allied forces, immediately. We must oppose the war and occupation and expose the crimes of the U.S. imperialists there. To do less will forsake the people of Afghanistan and enable the U.S. to continue its crimes in that country.


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