“The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.”
And when I say death and semantics with regards to Afghanistan, I mean death in great numbers.
And I’ll begin with an apologetic qualification: I have no expertise whatsoever on Afghanistan. Nonetheless, I find it painful and morally suspect when we in our ivory (okay, cement and wooden) towers fight over semantics regarding innocent sisters and brothers—and this can also include American/Canadian soldiers—who have to live under brutal, deathly, inconceivable conditions, regardless of the rights and wrongs of said semantics.
In the National Post (which is, evidently, more than semantically bankrupt), Raphael Alexander is righteously indignant because Noam Chomsky—and countless others from many papers—describe the American military actions in Afghanistan (and I suppose the Canadian actions, too) as an invasion.
INVASION OR EVASION?
Alexander quotes a colleague, Mark Collins:
There was no “invasion” of Afghanistan.
Before the fall of Kabul to the insurgent Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001, and the consequent collapse of the Taliban regime, there were no foreign regular combat formations in Afghanistan [great, and the 15,000 military advisers Kennedy sent into south Vietnam were simply taking notes on the local flora].
For a different opinion on the Northern Alliance, I’d recommend Raphael at least comes to hear the remarkably courageous Afghan woman Malalai Joya talk this Saturday in Vancouver. She has stated:
“I realised women’s rights had been sold out completely…Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality towards women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime.
But this is a lie.
Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban—and now they were marching back to power, backed by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.”
I guess that’s just her opinion—maybe even semantics—but she lived there, and she’s risked her life to say it, so it should be given some merit.
Continuing the Alexander article:
The Northern Alliance did receive air support [sounds like payments from dad after a divorce] and assistance [for welfare mothers] from special forces (both U.S. and British); that however is not an invasion.
Anyone must surely understand that, whether it’s an ‘invasion’ or simply a ‘war’—decide for yourself—one army’s ‘support’ and ‘assistance’ from the most powerful forces on earth will likely be another group of citizens’ ‘hell’ and ‘massacre.’
RUSSIAN TO JUDGMENT
Alexander’s article continues:
Substantial foreign ground combat forces—including Canadian—only entered the country after the Taliban had been deposed by indigenous Afghan forces.
Those foreign troops entered with the agreement of the Northern Alliance—which was the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.
An agreement! That’s a relief! And I’m doubly relieved for the Afghan people because—using Alexander’s reasoning—isn’t it true, then, that the brutal Soviets didn’t ‘invade’ Afghanistan in 1980? After all, it is well documented that like the Americans with the Afghan Northern Alliance, the Russians also had an agreement and were repeatedly invited by the then-Marxist Afghan government to ‘assist’ and ‘support’ them against rebel insurgents.
From Wikipedia, and footnoted:
The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujahideen rebels [mujahideen—that sounds familiar. Oh yeah, freedom fighters the moral equivalent of the American founding fathers, at least according to, I believe, Ronald Reagan—while also being the ripe soil for the coming harvest of mad-men].
On April 14, 1979, the Afghan government requested that the USSR send 15 to 20 helicopters with their crews to Afghanistan, and on June 16, the Soviet government responded and sent a detachment of tanks, BMPs, and crews to guard the government in Kabul and to secure the Bagram and Shindand airfields.
No, agreement or not, I think I’ll stick to the invasion theory of Soviet involvement.
And just as a trivial aside, the Northern Alliance may well be “the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.” And the abominable Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge held their country’s seat (Cambodia) at the United Nations—with American and British support for a number of Cold War reasons—until 1982, and then until 1993 (under a different name). In other words, with support from the West, the Khmer Rouge held a UN seat for nearly fifteen years after committing the second largest genocide of the 20th century.
RABBLE AND HUM
And although democracy is clearly irrelevant—or at least the will of the people and international opinion are clearly irrelevant—here are a few statistics on what citizens around the world thought at the time:
Public opinion at the beginning of the war also reflected this dichotomy between the United States and most other countries.
When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, a large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late September 2001, found that large majorities in most countries favoured a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: Only in just 3 countries out of the 37 surveyed—the United States, Israel, and India—did majorities favour military action in Afghanistan [Israel and India were undoubtedly, at least on some level, seeking precedence to attack without limitation their enemies—Palestine/Lebanon and Pakistan, respectively].
In 34 out of the 37 countries surveyed, the survey found many clear and sizeable majorities that did not favour military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%), Mexico (94%), and other countries.
Eventually some of those numbers would change—over time and pressure—not unlike the reversal by Congress with the Bank bailout, which was, similarly due to its ‘legality’, clearly not an invasion of the the tax-payers’ pockets. It was ‘assistance’ and ‘support’ for the bewildered rabble.
AND BACK TO SEMANTICS
Alexander continues in the National Post:
In any event, the U.S was exercising its legitimate right of self-defence against the Taliban regime that was harbouring al-Qaida, the group behind the murderous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
Again the battle of semantics, with the term ‘legitimate right,’ but it was my understanding that the Taliban—and their ideology and actions are heinous (and now their moderate faction is being negotiated with!)—asked for evidence of al-Qaida’s involvement.
The American government couldn’t supply evidence, refused to seek legal channels (as was desired by many, many countries), and went forward to “smoke [bin Laden] out”—which still hasn’t happened, and is barely ever mentioned.
And I believe that even after an eight month utterly exhaustive FBI investigation, the FBI stated they did not have conclusive evidence of who was behind the horrendous, murderous 9/11 attacks.
Our ensuing investigation of the attacks of 9/11/01—code-named “PENTTBOM”—was our largest investigation ever. At the peak of the case, more than half our agents worked to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and, with other agencies, to head off any possible future attacks. We followed more than half-a-million investigative leads, including several hundred thousand tips from the public. The attack and crash sites also represented the largest crime scenes in FBI history.
And on December 11, 2001, from the FBI:
The indictment [of Zacarias Moussaoui ] we are announcing today is an important step in the process of bringing to justice those who we believe to be connected to these violent and vicious attacks on America.
I don’t doubt al-Qaida’s involvement in some large or small way, but the FBI’s evidence, by their own admission, was inconclusive.
What we did know from the FBI investigation and press release was that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi Arabian, and Wahabbi schools—supposedly often terror encouraging and anti-West in their teachings—had for years been largely financed out of Saudi Arabia.
Hence, days after 9/11: the American invasion of Saudi Arabia.
Oops, I mean, barely even a conversation. Meanwhile, the ‘House of Bush I & II/House of Saud’ money, resource and business connections et cetera are massive—and even in bits, available for anyone to research.
And here’s the real rub and the grand agony: the largely non-existent media and political attempts to seek out, let alone publicize, what the citizens of Afghanistan actually want. And what they want can be discovered. And call me cynical, but responding to Karzai’s requests—not to mention his suspected drug-smuggling brother—should not necessarily constitute the will of the Afghan people.
From a NY Times article:
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.
The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.
The above certainly supports Joya’s bold claims of “warlords, drug lords and criminals” being all through the so-called democratic Afghan government.
Anyway, I’ve said too much. I just can’t stand it when that obvious final question isn’t asked: what do the people want—those who are suffering from the invasion/war/operation/occupation, or whatever you want to call it, as thousands die? Any true democrat would agree that what the citizens of Afghanistan want is the one question that ultimately really matters.
I’ll let the remarkably courageous Malalai Joya finish. Although she cannot speak for her entire country (although she was elected), she’s surely more important than some questionable battle of semantics:
We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by, and for, the West, to legitimise its future puppet in Afghanistan. It seems we are doomed to see the continuation of this failed, mafia-like, corrupt government for another term.
The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the rampant corruption of Karzai’s “narco-state” (his own brother, Wali Karzai, has been linked to drug trafficking in Kandahar province) and the escalating war waged by Nato. In May of this year, US air strikes killed approximately 150 civilians in my native province, Farah [in 2005 Malalai, representing Farah, became the youngest person elected to the new parliament].
More than ever, Afghans are faced with powerful internal enemies—fundamentalist warlords and their Taliban brothers-in-creed—and the external enemies occupying the country.
Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.
So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.
In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home [also a profound and heart-breaking tragedy]. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.
I believe that if the ordinary folk of Afghanistan and the NATO countries were able to vote, and express their wishes, this indefinite military occupation would come to an end and there would be a real chance for peace in Afghanistan. But today’s election does nothing for that.
Here’s to peace, love, hope that we may ask the right questions, honesty, and as few deaths and as much integrity as possible in Afghanistan—integrity in the papers, and from my heart (because I truly have so little knowledge, but this report just got my goat). And without doubt, in life sometimes you have to fight. That goes both ways.