Wednesday, Oct. 7, marks eight full years of U.S.-led invasion, occupation and bombing of the country of Afghanistan. While many of us have since gotten jobs, taken classes and perhaps pondered the future direction of our careers, thousands of Afghans will never have such choices. Among the first victims of the supposed “good war” were seven children blown to pieces after a U.S. bomb flattened their mud brick home in Kabul as they ate and another two as the blast also shattered a neighboring house on Oct. 29, 2001, according to the Times of India.
Such were the opening salvoes of a criminally unjust venture, the central motives of which were, and remain, far different than apprehending the 9/11 hijackers or liberating Afghans (particularly womyn) from the brutal Taliban.
In order to strengthen what is in fact an empire and render it unchallengeable, the world’s only superpower has intensified its bombardment on one of the poorest countries on earth, a place where a good three quarters of adults are illiterate and life expectancy remains well under 50. This war is one front in the overall design described by documents like the National Security Strategy of 2002, which details the need to prevent the rise of any new rivals and to gain dominance over energy reserves in areas like Central Asia. The Obama team has far from repudiated this and other such policy objectives in word or deed.
As Obama calculates his next move, official public opinion polls reveal that support for this war has reached an all-time low. We are hereby making a call for this campus to renew its recent history of inspirational anti-war activism, which has collapsed nationwide in the era of Obama.
Most people who opposed the initial invasion honestly seem to believe that we ought to at least maintain a presence to “clean up the mess we started.” They are mistaken. Suppose a foreign army has targeted and destroyed your dams, radio stations, power stations, civilian trucks carrying fuel oil, media outlets. About when would you stop believing that this foreign presence could somehow finally clean up the mess? A majority of Afghans, not just the Taliban, want the troops and occupiers out.
It should be clear that a war fought for cynical geostrategic objectives brings misery to civilians and strengthens fundamentalist forces like the Taliban (who were, of course, U.S. allies and business partners of the Unocal Corporation up until late 1997). In Afghanistan’s present government and parliament, the American and NATO occupiers have empowered a motley crew of corrupt tribal chieftains, feudal landlords and drug lords. Opium production has skyrocketed, especially in areas under control of U.S.-funded allies. So much for economic reconstruction.
Hundreds of cases of detainee abuse in secretive CIA detention centers and of unprecedented torture at the hands of U.S. allies have been reported by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Instead of respond to questions about the detainees at Bagram Airfield, the U.S.’s “new Guantanamo” in Afghanistan, Obama approved $60 million to double the size of this prison. This and the widespread allegations of fraud surrounding President Hamid Karzai’s recent “victory” highlight the political bankruptcy of the occupation and of the puppet regime the U.S. has nurtured for years now.
The initial U.S.-led invasion and current occupation included the pretext of liberating womyn. Under the rule of the Taliban, womyn were prohibited from seeking an education and were kept within their homes, unable to leave without a male relative to serve as chaperone. A system of gender apartheid was imposed on the people, a death sentence constantly loomed over womyn who were unable to utter a single word in the presence of an unrelated male and could not be received in public without a head-to-toe covering (though we should respect those who have decided to wear this garb out of their own free will).
Taliban resurgence in some areas, fueled by our bombings and raids, has clearly been a nightmare for womyn. But those who believe womyn’s rights are even incidental to the U.S. war and presence should be reminded that the Afghan government and its U.S.-supported president passed one of the most medieval laws in all of the Middle East last March, which, among other measures, legalizes marital rape and prevents womyn from having a public life without a husband’s permission. It applies to the Shiite population of the country, but sets a dark precedent for all Afghani womyn. A womyn parliamentarian told British media that the law is “worse than the Taliban.”
As this has become Obama’s war, this president has refused to release an executive order to military commanders mandating that the Geneva Accords apply to combat in Afghanistan. Thus, Bush’s war crimes have become Obama’s war crimes – legal scholar and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Michael Haas claims that at least 15 war crimes have been perpetrated by this new administration.
As imperialism clashes with and fuels “local” reactionary patriarchs like the Taliban throughout the region, it becomes more and more difficult for the people of the Middle East to construct a secular and liberating alternative to either form of rule. It is time for students and faculty alike to contribute to this week’s show of resistance to the war in Afghanistan in a serious and creative way. We need to create the dissent and political defiance that this country’s rulers, elected and unelected, will be forced to take into account.
Speak out against the war in Afghanistan on Wednesday, Oct. 7 from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Arbor. Contact us to send group endorsements or statements of support. We especially encourage speakers, artists and poets to participate.