Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Afghanistan Indictment

The role that Western nations have played in contributing to the current mess that we call Afghanistan is just beginning to come under scrutiny. The much expected re-election of Hamid Karzai will cement our legacy in that distant land and, as Nushin Arbabzadah notes in The Guardian, that legacy isn't good:

When the Taliban arrived in a village in Farah in May, the village elders approached them and asked them to leave. They told the Taliban that if the fighters stayed, the foreigners would bomb their village. The Taliban said: "We are fighting and dying for Islam and so should you. Why should you be spared death? Is your blood redder than ours?"

And so the foreign planes came, dropped their bombs and, according to locals, killed more than 100 civilians. "What could we do?" said a local man to the BBC's Afghan service. "The Talibs were young men with guns and grenades. We had no weapons to protect ourselves and no young men to help us."

...A cabal of discredited Afghan warlords accused of war crimes and ousted by the Taliban allied themselves with the foreign troops against the Taliban, and were co-opted into the system, becoming ministers, MPs and governors. To Afghans they remained just that – warlords – albeit warlords with new "democratic" titles and western friends. The 2001 intervention was a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 done on the cheap. As local wisdom has it, there are three types of people in Afghanistan today: al-Qaida (the fighters), al-faida (the enriched) and al-gaida (the fucked). Most Afghans belong to the third category.

...Far from disarming the many Afghan militia gangs, the current intervention has created a new set of armed men who are highly trained and well-equipped. Their daytime job is to protect foreign problem-solvers. But in their spare time, they run their own criminal businesses, robbing and intimidating locals and recently, even killing a government official.

It's not as though any of this comes as a surprise. While we have been asking our soldiers to risk their lives we have been helping this cancer spread throughout the cities and the countryside, ensuring our soldiers' many sacrifices will be futile.

I find it telling that the many cheerleaders for this mission, the "Support the Troops" types with their yellow plastic ribbons on the trunks of their cars, never bothered to look at what was really going on in Afghanistan, never raised a protest. At the end of the day, they didn't really support the troops, they supported the troops being over there. Those are two really different things.

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