|Source: Afghan Women's Writing Project "A Mother Expecting Still"|
In order to reduce the number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, the Pentagon asked Congress for $9.6 billion of its allowance to be moved from one budget line to another. They asked permission to shift funds away from research and weapons purchases to instead “support funding shortfalls” in transportation, due to the high cost of removing from landlocked, mountainous Afghanistan. The Pentagon is reluctant to run short on funds for fuel, engaged as it is in the business of maintaining the larges tcarbon footprint on the planet.
But lest you make the mistake of thinking that withdrawal of many troops from Afghanistan means the war is over, a Pentagon official testifying to the Senate Armed Services committee said that the current war on terrorism could continue for ten, or maybe even twenty, more years. Also, now battlefields are chosen by "the enemy" and thus can and do keep cropping up in all sorts of unlikely places -- even Boston.
Downsizing the occupation consists of relying more and more on drones, or flying killer robots, and less and less on soldiers. Our mammoth fortified “embassy” in Kabul is nearly complete, Pepsi is building a new bottling plant there, and our imperial ambitions are leaning toward Africa while simultaneously pivoting to the Pacific. Look for more request for advances on the Pentagon's allowance.
What chaos do we leave in our wake as we "exit" Afghanistan? Every major news outlet (all owned by a few corporations, all headed by wealthy white men) participates in churning out the falsehoods that conceal the weeping of the bereaved in Kabul and Kandahar -- so that people in North America cannot hear them.
Here, for example, is the New York Times reporting on negotiation of the devilish details of the "strategic partnership agreement" for post-2014:
The deal spells out Washington’s commitment to Afghanistan over the next 10 years, as well as its expectations of Kabul, including free and fair presidential elections next year and pledges to fight corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, including those of women.
Let's examine some of the myths surrounding the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan. They will be used to weasel out of spending more than token amounts on compensating the victims of a decade plus of occupation.
Afghanistan Myth #1:
Afghanistan is the good war, because we are fighting for democracy, and if we don't fight "them" over there, we will have to fight "them" over here. Afghanistan is a breeding ground for Islamic extremists, a cradle of terrorists.
Thirty years ago the U.S. and Saudi Arabia poured money into funding Mujahideen fighters in a proxy war -- against the U.S.S.R. on the one hand, and Iran on the other. As is now fairly well known, much of the activity of training and arming Mujahideen fighters like Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national, went on over the border in Pakistan, a U.S. ally. When the Soviets withdrew at the end of their ten years of bloody stalemate, so did the other meddlers, leaving the heavily armed factions vying for power to fight it out among themselves.
After mostly Saudi nationals (and not a single Afghan) were allowed to mount a dramatic attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the U.S. waded into its own quagmire and began creating terrorists galore by bombing civilians, conducting night raids, and gobbling up land and resources. Because the Taleban had entrenched itself in many areas after successfully bringing the civil war to a close, the U.S. and NATO have found themselves paying the very group they are supposedly battling in order to keep supply lines open and conduct the war.
There may be some other examples in world history of funding ones own enemies, but if so they are rare. The immense folly of such an enterprise can most likely be justified on the grounds that it producies plenty of fear in the homeland, fueling sentiments such as the one I often hear people spouting: if we don't fight "them" over there, we will have to fight "them" over here.
Afghanistan Myth #2:
Afghanistan has a culture of corruption, bribery being the norm, and good governance being foreign to its people.
Reports of suitcases full of cash delivered for a decade by the CIA to the president installed by the U.S., Hamid Karzai found him unapologetic about receiving them. Karzai explained that this is the way he bribes warlords to accept posts in the national and regional governments, and to keep their militias on a leash. (I have to add that the first time I saw the term "warlord" used as a serious term for allies of the U.S. was in the newspaper headline: "Laura Bush meets with warlords in Afghanistan." In those days -- around 2003 I think it was -- I was incredulous and thought I must be reading The Onion.)
Afghanistan Myth #3:
Women and girls have few rights in Afghanistan, and this is endemic to their culture. NATO's presence is justified by having improved women's rights, especially access to education.
Laura Bush got us off and running in 2001 issuing a statement to the press “to fight [in Afghanistan]...is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women." She was counting on the fact that the public in the U.S. would never know about Afghan women like these students in the 70's:
|Source: "Once Upon a Time In Afghanistan" by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy|
Afghanistan Myth #4:
Afghanistan has alway been extremely poor.
|Afghan pomegranates on sale in India. Source: http://www.fafdevelopments.com/?p=1028|
For centuries Afghanistan produced agricultural goods exported to surrounding areas, and the region was especially known for the delicious fruits that came from its orchards: apricots, peaches, lemons, figs, and many more. Before the Soviet era the streets of its towns were lined with trees and its residential areas were filled with gardens. Thirty years of war destroyed much of the infrastructure. Currently, organizations like Afghanistan Samsortya work with local farmers to replant trees that produce food and shade, and retain healthy soil.
Afghanistan Myth #5:
Afghanistan's decadent economy is based largely on opium production.
|Photo source: NYT "Production of Opium by Afghans Is Up Again"|
Actually during the Taleban period just prior to NATO's invasion poppy production was at an all time low. Now it is booming, with heroin is flowing into Russia among other places. Chemical warfare anyone?
Afghanistan Myth #6:
Afghan people are inherently violent, with warlords and militas dominating local areas.
|Mahatma Ghandi with Ghaffar Khan, the leader of the mass nonviolent resistance to British imperial rule.|
This is one of the largest truths that the information supplied to U.S. citizens conceals: in the early 20th century Afghanistan and the part of India that is now Pakistan saw a mass nonviolent movement arise to resist British imperial rule. The movement sought to achieve independence through nonviolent methods. The Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God"), were led by educator Ghaffar Khan, a contemporary and collaborator of Gandhi. The movement was ruthlessly crushed, and knowledge about them in the heart of the empire (that's you, U.S. citizens) has been suppressed.
Today many groups continue using nonviolence in a disciplined way to win against violence. As one example, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers conduct monthly Global Days of Listening, creating space for conversations that are joyous and unique. You can join the next conversation here. You can also donate to support nonviolent methods research being translated and distributed in Afghanistan by donating to the Albert Einstein Institution.
|Source: Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers' blog Our Journey to Smile|
U.S. soldiers and contractors are the hooligans of the world. In Afghanistan and Iraq they disrespected elders and local culture by entering homes in the night, by desecrating corpses and burning holy texts, and by torturing and killing civilians.
This myth also ignores basic facts, such as the vast difference between being Arab and being Muslim, or how unalike are the countries of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Myth #8:
Afghanis are uneducated peasants still living in the Stone Age.
Afghanis are units of currency, not people.
A major Afghan cultural hero is the 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi, who wrote in one poem:
And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,"You owe me."
Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.
Kabul Hills at sunrise photo credit: Timothy Clogherty