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(en) Freedom 6315 (27th July) - No relief from the bombs

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 11 Aug 2002 05:00:25 -0400 (EDT)


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Afghanistan seems to be a country cursed by history. The
Soviet-backed dictatorship of the 1980s was followed by a
savage civil war in the first half of the 1990s. Then came the
tyranny of the Taliban. These catastrophes in turn created a
massive wave of some four million refugees, most of whom
sheltered in Iran and Pakistan. A severe drought started last
year, and the slow process of the refugees' return halted.
Recently it has even been reversed.
Some have described the fall of the Taliban regime as the
'liberation' of Afghanistan. While few will mourn the collapse
of this theocratic tyranny, it's becoming clear that today, rather
than progressing towards a pluralist, tolerant, peaceful society,
the country is caught on a tightrope.
The two most recent tragedies Ğ the massacre of wedding
guests at Deh Rawud on 1st July and the assassination of
vice-president Hadji Qadir on 6th July - aren't unexpected
accidents, but the tragically predictable results of the US-led
attack on Afghanistan.
The public justification for the 'war against terror' was that
Afghanistan harboured the militants of the shadowy al-Qaeda.
In practice, the recent US-led campaign has hurt the ordinary
people of Afghanistan far more than it has hurt the terrorists.
The offensive has been marked by blundering incompetence
and horrific errors to the point where, on occasion, British and
French units have refused to co-operate with American
commanders.
Bush's insistence that US soldiers are as little endangered as
possible means that their war is fought from afar, usually by
ferociously-armed aircraft. The combatants have no direct
contact with the regions where the campaign is waged and
their commanders often have no accurate information about
the areas either.
When infantry involvement is needed, the USA prefers to hire
mercenaries from the warlords of the Northern Alliance, so
directly legitimising the warlords' role as employers and
mediators.
The shock of the wedding massacre produced the first women's
protest in Afghanistan for years. Some fifty women, all
wearing chadri, demonstrated their grief in Kabul.
In a country where women are still reluctant or afraid to walk
alone in public, and where the handful of public female figures
are regularly attacked and criticised by conservatives, this
small protest was an eloquent indication of how public opinion
is developing in Afghanistan.
American forces aren't seen as liberators but as unwelcome
guests, as a threatening presence whose activities in the
country do more harm than good. Given the devastating
firepower of American aircraft and the urgency with which
they're required to produce results, 'mistakes', such as the
killing of over forty wedding guests, are almost inevitable.
The unmoved reaction to this tragedy from US defence
secretary Donald Rumsfeld was typical of the tone which has
dominated the military campaign. The American forces stifle
debate, repudiate all critics and, whenever possible, suppress all
publicity.
For this reason, there's never been any official US statement
on the number of Afghan civilians killed in the latest
campaign, probably because any reasonable estimate would
show that the number of Afghan civilians killed by American
armed forces far exceeds the number killed in the World Trade
Centre on 11th September.
There can be no doubt that Hamid Karzai heads a far less
repressive government than that of the Taliban, but it's also
clear that he's powerless to solve the social, political and
economic crises which face his country.
Afghanistan is a country of less than seventeen million people,
where more than one million men regularly carry arms, and
Karzai as yet has no armed force to command. He's reduced to
trying to use the international ISAF forces as a substitute
national army while he negotiates pragmatically, even
opportunistically, with all who hold power, whether they're
regional bosses, fundamentalists or warlords linked to foreign
powers.
His appeal to the Loya Jirga, an attempt to simulate some form
of democratic mandate, was short-circuited by the power of
local rulers to manipulate the choice of delegates. The
assassination of Hadji Abdul Qadir shows what happens when
Karzai refuses to bend to the pressures placed on him.
Whether the vice-president was killed by northern warlords,
Taliban, al-Qaeda or heroin smugglers, the incident shows the
fragility of the president's western-backed project.
Afghanistan is a country in desperate need of peace,
reconstruction and political stability. Instead, the US-led
campaign has brought bombs and money for the warlords.
Karzai's attempts to maintain a dreadfully fragile political
equilibrium face more difficulties every day.
Sharif Gemie




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