July 13, 2009

Afghan rebels?

I just read today's letters in The Independent. They seem to be responding to an editorial that, no doubt, supports the war there. I guess that because whilst the articles in the Indie can be very good, truthful even, the editorials often express an opinion completely at odds with the reports from the field. Anyway, see these letters and maybe you can track down the editorial. That bit's not easy because the Indie site isn't as navigable as The Guardian, but go on, have a go:
What are we doing in Afghanistan?

I’m very disappointed in The Independent’s position on the war in Afghanistan (leading article, 10 July). We have been in that benighted land for nearly eight years and the goal of “crushing the camps which train terrorists” is apparently no closer to completion.

What camps? After eight years and the participation of more than 40 countries, have we still not found them? And do terrorists actually need “camps” in Afghanistan or anywhere else, or just a backroom in Leeds, Reading, Riyadh or Islamabad? Or maybe even a quiet corner of the Lake District?

We are currently losing a soldier a day in pursuit of this dubious enterprise. And what is there to show for it? What is our government’s appraisal of the situation? Are we winning, and if so by what measure?

The Independent is allowing itself to be sucked into the argument about lack of equipment, but this is merely a sideshow; we have known for years that the equipment is below par. More important questions are those regarding lack of accountability, lack of strategy, and whether our continued presence there is not a persistent stimulus to terrorist activity elsewhere.


Our young people killed in Afghanistan are collateral damage of an international arms trade we enthusiastically sustain, in which we participate, and from which we profit.

Our bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq has killed far more innocent Afghanis and Iraqis than any civil war in either countrywould have done.

We are seeking to establish a democratic system in an area of the world culturally alien to it. Many of our main allies in the area are deeply undemocratic states; at least one a monarchic misogynistic theocracy as repressive as the Taliban themselves.

For the second time in 30 years, self-trained indigenous Taliban Afghanis are withstanding the combined might of super-power armies, massively superior in technological warfare. In the 1970s, Russia had many more well-trained conventional forces than we can muster or would ever commit.

They were politically able to accept a loss rate our public would never permit, yet they had to give up.

The internet and global communication; the irresistible dissemination of ideas from women’s rights to the benefits of democratic institutions, and, yes, even free world trade are far more likely to defeat misogynistic repression than our assembly-line production of martyrs for men who know how to exploit them.


If our motive for being in Afghanistan is humanitarian, then be prepared for countless future military interventions on behalf of democracy, selfdetermination, women, and sexual minorities. If it is fear of al-Qa’ida reestablishing a base, then the west will need to flex its military muscle until the Muslim world consists entirely of client states.

But what about 9/11 and 7/7? Acquiesce in foreign adventures and we the citizenry become belligerents, hence targets. Alas, each of us in a democracy is jointly and severally responsible for the actions of our elected government.

These days, empire means blowback, sometimes even in our homeland.


David Miliband’s assertion that the future of Britain rests upon the successful outcome of the war in Afghanistan has all the trappings of a Newspeak announcement from George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

As was the case of the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq, the 2001 US/UK invasion of Afghanistan was founded upon a false casus belli manufactured by a frustrated US administration requiring an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to the Caspian Sea.

Britain has no right to be in Afghanistan and Britain will remain susceptible to retaliation until we cease to promote American foreign policy and remove our armed forces from other nations’ soil.


When the Prime Minister states that “There is a chain of terror that runs from the mountains and towns of Afghanistan to the streets of Britain” he is right, but not in the sense he intends.

The US/UK military campaign to subjugate the rebellious Pashtun province of Helmandis not winning hearts and minds. Instead, it sows seeds of bitterness and vengeance with every (shamefully underreported) air strike. The occupation is radicalising a new generation at home and abroad. And, in counterpoint to its stated aims, it provides a training and testing ground for guerrilla tactics and technology.

The asymmetric conflict against the Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan is resembling more and more the US embroilment in South Vietnam, with one crucial difference; the then Labour government had the courage and foresight not to involve UK forces.


The murder of a leading feminist and the stoning of women campaigning against President Karzai’s laws, which sanction rape within marriage, should not be tolerated by the UN, let alone theUKand US.Yet President Obama and our own Prime Minister have sanctioned more troops to support such a regime. Our taxpayers’ money and troops are supporting this policy.


Is it too much to assume that The Independent couldn't find one letter worth printing that supported the editorial position? They'll turn it around tomorrow I'm sure.


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