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Analysis

Afghanistan Occupied, New Targets Ahead

by Mick Kelly |
February 1, 2002
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With the help of bombs and mercenaries from the Northern Alliance, U.S. and British forces have occupied the main cities of Afghanistan. Washington convened a meeting in Europe where a strange collection of Afghan warlords, monarchists, and political has-beens were anointed as the new government. They were put in airplanes and sent to Kabul where they had to explain how the "careful" American pilots bombed a convoy of their supporters who on the way to their inauguration.

For the people of Afghanistan, the "war on terror" has been a war of terror. Some people say that the American bombing campaign has taken the lives of 4500 people. Other estimates are higher. In any event, no one here should be fooled. The bombing targets included hospitals and old folks homes, the Arab media and the Red Cross (twice). Nothing can justify this.

And the war continues. It is likely go on for the some time. No one wants their country occupied by foreign powers. So, the people of Afghanistan will mount a resistance. Its scope and power remain to be seen, but it will certainly be a factor.

The Bush administration says it has a "public relations" problem. They are right about that. But PR or no PR - Marines brandishing M-16s on the streets of Kandahar and Special Forces threatening people at hospitals speak volumes about U.S. intervention. For that matter, no spin-doctor can cover up the criminal bombing that took place in the villages around Tora Bora. Bush spokesmen say it never took place, while the rest of us can look at the pictures in the newspapers of dead bodies and kids without legs.

Collapse of the Taliban

The Afghan people have a long history of fiercely defending their independence. The British tried, and the story of their occupation could have been entitled "no one gets out of here alive." A month into the bombing campaign, the Pentagon was referring to the Taliban forces as "seasoned fighters" and "tough customers." So what happened? Why did the cities fall so quickly?

Some of the answer lies in the technological power of the U.S. military. Fifteen thousand pound bombs are no joke. But the Vietnamese faced those same bombs, waged a people's war, and Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City.

The ability of the Taliban to resist has been limited because their reactionary policies undermined their popular support. No matter how favorable the terrain, without active popular support it's impossible to wage and win a guerrilla war.

War Aims

With or without the events of Sept. 1l, the U.S was on a collision course with Afghanistan. On a political level, countries that maintain their independence, for whatever reasons, are labeled "rogue states" and the Taliban government was on the short list to join that list. Sanctions were already in place, and from there it is a short step to war.

From an economic perspective, Afghanistan is important to the corporate heads that call empire building "globalization." The oil reserves of the former USSR, especially those of central Asia, are critical. So are plans to put oil and gas pipelines throughout Afghanistan. The strategic significance of these oil reserves is accented by the growing radicalization of the Arab peoples. Time is not on the side of the Saudi rulers, nor on that of the other Arab elites who have pledged their loyalty to the dollar. So, alternative sources of oil need to be developed.

Limits of Empire


In the early 1970's, the U.S. was at the height of its power. Blows from the national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America, along with the rise of competition from Europe and Japan signaled an end to the "American century." The standard of living here has declined each year since 1973, as corporations have restructured themselves and society to maintain rates of profit and compete effectively.

The fall of the Soviet Union gave the U.S. more room to maneuver. But more room to act is different that "do as you will, when you will." In no place is this more clear than the Middle East, where events are spinning out of Washington's control.

All War, All the Time?

For American policy makers, the world is a dangerous "with us or against us" sort of place, so, according to this view, there are lots of terrorist, terrorist-supporting, and weapons of mass destruction producing countries.

Defense Secretary Rumsfield was correct in saying the U.S. cannot wage a war with everyone in the world at the same time. So, a debate is underway in the White House and Pentagon about who to strike next. Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan are among the place under discussion. In some places the U.S. will use proxies to fight its wars. In others, American intervention will be more direct - U.S. ships, troops and planes.

An element of U.S. strategy is the attempt to criminalize the fight for national liberation - to put a "terrorist" tag on freedom fighters.

It is important to recall that the U.S. is already playing a military role in Colombia and the Philippines The longest air war since Vietnam is being directed against Iraq. Israel's occupation would be impossible without U.S. assistance.

The anti-war movement has its work cut out for it. We need to demand "no new targets!" The sanctions and bombing campaign against Iraq needs to be ended, and we should be on guard for any moves to expand the war on Iraq. With the possibility open for the dramatic escalation of the war in Colombia, it's critical that demands are raised to bring U.S. military personnel home and to cut off assistance to Colombia's death squad government.

Finally, there is the issue of Palestine. It is unfortunate that many progressives have turned a blind eye towards Israel's occupation. The effort to liberate Palestine is central to the Arab people as a whole. Aid to Israel must end.

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