Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Afghanistan and Iraq are the Same War



Four years ago the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenseless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan.

For twelve years prior to the invasion and occupation Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the “primary victims” of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were “women and children, the poor and the infirm.” According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain –possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined –attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker buster bombs and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British Medical Journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all-too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government’s own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled “Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.” Citing “immense suffering,” it calls “urgently” for ” respect for international humanitarian law.” Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad added, “What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq”

The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been “internally displaced,” while another two million have fled –largely to neighbouring Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, “the supreme international crime.” According to the Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war.

In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That’s how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9/11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke’s Against all Enemies).That’s why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That’s why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9/11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called “War on Terror” –in reality a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn’t absolve the participants in America’s war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring “the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force” (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF that didn’t change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under US command. The “Supreme Commander” is always an American general, who answers to the American president, not the Afghan one.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more American forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

When the U.S. devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-1975), leaving behind six million dead or maimed, Canada refused to participate. But today Canada has become part of a U.S. war being waged not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a network of disclosed and undisclosed centres of physical and mental torture, like Guantanamo Bay in –let’s not forget –illegally occupied Cuban territory. And what we know about what the U.S. government calls terrorism is that it is largely a response to foreign occupation, and what we know about American occupation is that it is a way the rich world forces the rest to surrender their resources.

General Rick Hillier bragged that Canada was going to root out the “scumbags” in Afghanistan. He didn’t mention that the Soviets, using over 600,000 troops and billions in aid over ten years, were unable to control Afghanistan. Britain, at the height of its imperial power, tried twice and failed. Now, Canada is helping another fading empire attempt to impose its will on Afghanistan.

Canadians have traditionally been able to hold their heads high when they travel the world. We did not achieve that reputation by waging war against the world’s poor; in large part we achieved it by refusing to do so.

Canada must –immediately, and at the minimum –open its doors to Iraqis and Afghanis attempting to flee the horror being inflicted on their homelands. We must stop pretending that we’re not implicated in their suffering under the bombs, death squads and torture. This means refusing to lend our name, our strength and the blood of our youth in this war without end against the Third World.

David Orchard is an author and Borden, SK farmer who ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. He can be reached at tel .

Michael Mandel is an author and Professor of International Law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He can be reached at


2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future