I. The elephant in the living room
How do you hide an elephant in your living room? You can’t hide it. So, you pretend it’s not there. If you’re the American news media.
Where’s the elephant?
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, a country right on its border. The USSR claimed that the American Central Intelligence Agency was behind a fundamentalist Islamic revolt against the pro-Soviet government. Both the Carter and Reagan Administrations denied this.
President Reagan was outraged. “The Evil Empire,” he stated. The US withdrew from the Olympic Games, and began an open campaign to build up the Islamic fundamentalist “freedom fighters” revolt. But the Soviets were correct, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s former National Security Advisor admitted in Le Nouvel Observateur in January1998.
Twenty-two years later, the US has invaded Afghanistan. If it was wrong for the Soviet Union to invade, isn’t it just as wrong for the US to do so? If the Soviet invasion were evidence for Soviet imperialism, isn’t the US invasion evidence of US imperialism?
It would be one thing if the US media–to say nothing of the Bush regime–were to actually face this question, and say something like: “Well, the Soviets weren’t going after terrorists, like we are. So their invasion was ‘imperialism’, while our ‘war’ is only to fight terrorism.” Except that the Soviets were going after terrorists– US-sponsored terrorists — as Brzezinski admitted. According to the US government and mass media, what the US does is never “terrorism.” That word is only used for what others do.
That would be at least to acknowledge that there is an elephant in the living room–that the US is now doing exactly the same thing that successive US regimes denounced the Soviet Union for doing.
But they don’t want us to see what is, so obviously, going on. They think that, if they ignore it, we won’t see it either. They think we are idiots.
II. Oil and Imperialism
However, it is clearer than ever that the war in Afghanistan is over control of oil. It is not even about catching OBL. This is an imperialist war.
On September 18 the BBC revealed that the US had plans to invade Afghanistan before Sept. 11. And the Bush Administration states the US plans to stay in Afghanistan a long time, set up a “friendly” regime, and establish a military presence there, while admitting it may be years, if ever, before it finds OBL.
Unocal, a US oil company had been negotiating with the Taliban regime for pipeline routes until this past Spring, when the Taliban demanded too much money. These negotiations explain the US government’s “humanitarian” and “anti-drug” aid to the Taliban regime during 2000 and the first part of 2001.
A military presence in Afghanistan will give US rulers a strong military base near the Caspian region of emerging oil nations, and athwart some of the best routes for oil and gas pipelines.
“Fighting terrorism” is simply the pretext, necessary to win the approval of the American public–to counteract the “Vietnam Syndrome”, the healthy distrust of the American people of their imperialist government that works against their interest at every turn.
And it is not a war for “cheaper” oil–as though our own dear US rulers were sending us off to fight, kill and die so that we can drive gas-guzzling SUVs to our heart’s content. As in the Gulf War, one aim is more expensive oil–higher profits for big US oil companies. The deeper motive, though, is control–political leverage over other industrial, imperialist countries like Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Holland–that, unlike the US, have few or no oil reserves of their own.
III. A Terrorist War
In this criminal war, the US is already killing civilians. Remember the term “collateral damage”? Now the US killers don’t know what to call the civilian casualties. Yes, US killers; if the suicide terrorists of 9/11 were killers, then the US government are killers too. Civilian deaths are the inevitable result of any bombing campaign against populated areas.
What we are seeing in Afghanistan is typical imperialist slaughter of people in a non-industrialized country for profit. It’s murder on a grand scale, as only the largest and most technologically sophisticated military in the world –the US military–can do it. And it has just begun.
There’s been some talk of “pathological cultures.” Well, there is plenty of pathology in the Middle East! For example, Islamic Fundamentalism and Jewish Fundamentalism (see Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, 1999). Neither “fundamentalisms” are any good at all.
But there is nothing so “pathological”, so hideous, as a society that declares itself “civilized” and then bombs and kills the people of a tormented country like Afghanistan.
Nothing so “pathological” as that same society which, as Brzezinski boasted, started the Afghan war, leading to over one million Afghani deaths with another two million maimed and wounded, simply as a move in a great “chess game” against its chief imperialist rival at the time, the USSR.
Nothing so “pathological” as that same society that supports Israeli murder and brutality against Palestinians–acts so horrendous that, were they being committed against Jews anywhere in the world, the world would rise up in protest, and rightly so.
And then some “leaders” in that same society have the gall to declare themselves “civilized”, and other cultures–the cultures of their victims–as “pathological.”
It is this imperialist culture that is truly sick.
Let us reject the US government’s lies, and raise our voices to oppose this criminal war. Tens of thousands of US college students, workers, and others have already done so. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And see http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/pol/wtcanalysis.html for the articles mentioned here, and many others.
Grover Furr is an associate professor of English at Montclair State University.