Afghanistan Calling!

by SAUL LANDAU

Ten plus years ago, the United States (oops, NATO) invaded Afghanistan and quickly won the war against the militarily (technologically) inferior Taliban government. Taliban fighters fled to Pakistan. Washington and allies followed their victory by quickly losing the occupation challenge. As W. Bush and allies invaded Iraq, the Taliban crept back from Pakistan and undid the US war victory. So, some 250,000 troops (mostly US) and contractors (US-paid) still occupy that much-invaded but never truly conquered country.

Alexander the Great invaded twice (330 and 327 BC) and soon died in Iraq of “Baghdad tummy.” Some 20+ centuries later the English unlearned Alex’s lesson. They marched (big mistake) on Kabul. They took losses and finally withdrew in frustration.

In the 21st Century, the Soviets spent a decade of failure trying to subdue CIA-backed Afghans. Washington cheered and its generals thought they could do better than the Soviets. But after ten years of occupation, the UN reported higher civilian and military casualty rates than in preceding years — and with no clear road to meeting any realistic goals. The West set out to build “our kind of third world nation” – one with a bare façade of democracy, like elections that pass minimal scrutiny.

Similar to the Vietnam scenario of the 160s and 70s, US forces trained vast numbers of local cops and troops – some of whom don’t enjoy fighting potential brothers; others occasionally use their training and weapons to kill US and NATO soldiers.

Once again, (Vietnam?) nation-building re-entered the US vocabulary. Fighting goes with making an infrastructure and inculcating modern values like women’s rights, but the military comes first, so Afghan women wait – and their babies die prematurely at world record rates for lack of care (funding). Some still get stoned for offenses (acting like women) that confound westerners. Indeed, Afghanistan has always confounded the invaders from afar.

We obviously have a more rational society. Look at the facts. Despite overwhelming public disapproval, Congress between 2001-2008 allocated some $100 million a day for military purposes in Afghanistan. But all the NATO countries combined to cough up a whopping $7 million a day for non-military aid.

Congress feeds $120+ billion a year into the Afghan operation – far more than the Afghan national budget — so that we can show results: Tens of thousands of wounded and dead. No NATO control. Our President there (Hamid Karzai) may win a place in the Guinness Book of Records for corruption. Under his supposed rule elections proved his country had copies US democracy: low turn out and vote-rigging – like Florida in 2000.

Our ten years of paying for and training Afghan cops and spooks have also produced other dubious results unless one favors hanging detainees by their hands, beating them with cables, and twisting “their genitals until the prisoners lose consciousness.”

The NY Times, citing a UN report (Oct. 10), stated that such torture occurs systematically at “these sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police.”

NATO officials admit they knew of the abuses and in the summer stopped sending prisoners to some of the torture sites. But they did not make it public. US officials denied knowledge and continued to pour money into the very system that produced the routine torture.

Did US trainers close their eyes and ears? Or did US complicity coincide with possible benefits “from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured?” (New York Times, October 11, 2011)

The UN Convention Against Torture prohibits the transfer of a detained person to the custody of another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that the detainee is at risk of torture.

“Use of interrogation methods, including suspension, beatings, electric shock, stress positions and threatened sexual assault is unacceptable by any standard of international human rights law,” the report said (Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, October 11, 2011). Did someone in the US command forget to read that?

US collaboration with other allies like Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Colombia and El Salvador have raised similar issues (2006 RAND Corporation report), but when it comes to war it’s “allies first, UN conventions second.”

October 7 marked the 10th anniversary of the invasion. Afghanistan has not achieved stability. In September, a suicide squad attacked near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Under NATO occupation, opium production has increased – up 60% next year according to experts. President Obama, who received detailed reports on the non-progress, faces the dilemma posed to all Presidents who want to pull out but can’t. He hears Republicans – even those who demand he withdraw — in the upcoming election campaign shouting: “He’s weak. He lost the war.”

Like those in Luis Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel,” US presidents feel trapped by circumstances of their political reality – or political stupidity.

If he does withdraw now Obama will have nothing to show for all the death and destruction, not even the impending Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, due to commence in 2012 and start oil flow in 2014. Without NATO forces there, forget it!

A year before elections, Presidents do what’s good for their re-re-elections.  These choices do not coincide with what’s good for the poor dogs fighting that war – or for the American psyche.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Nov 2 at Pomona College and Nov. 9 at University of North Carolina. For DVDs go to cinemalibrestore.com. Counterpunch publiShed his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman