Becoming What We Seek to Destroy

Gates and soldiers
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, takes part in a re-enlistment ceremony for eight U.S. troops during his visit to Forward Operating Base Airborne in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, last week.

Chris Hedges on the futility of the Afghan war.

The bodies of dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, women, children and men, their corpses blown into bits of human flesh by iron fragmentation bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes in a village in the western province of Farah, illustrates the futility of the Afghan war. We are not delivering democracy or liberation or development. We are delivering massive, sophisticated forms of industrial slaughter. And because we have employed the blunt and horrible instrument of war in a land we know little about and are incapable of reading, we embody the barbarism we claim to be seeking to defeat.

We are morally no different from the psychopaths within the Taliban, who Afghans remember we empowered, funded and armed during the 10-year war with the Soviet Union. Acid thrown a girl’s face or beheadings? Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs? This is the language of war. It is what we speak. It is what those we fight speak.

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US: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest Threat of All?

Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service give an insightful analysis of events in Washington over the past week. At the AIPAC conference Israel hawks espoused hyperbole towards the “existential threat” that Iran poses towards Israel in the fight to secure foreign policy agenda ahead of the more pressing ‘Af-Pak’ issue, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari conducted summit talks with President Obama.

WASHINGTON, May 10 (IPS) – A potentially major clash appears to be developing between powerful factions inside and outside the U.S. government, pitting those who see the Afghanistan/Pakistan (“AfPak”) theatre as the greatest potential threat to U.S. national security against those who believe that the danger posed by a nuclear Iran must be given priority.

The Iran hawks, concentrated within the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters in the so-called “Israel lobby” here, want to take aggressive action against Iran’s nuclear programme by moving quickly to a stepped-up sanctions regime. Continue reading “US: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest Threat of All?”

Afghans to Obama: Get Out, Take Karzai With You

Patrick Cockburn writes of the impotency of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s seven years in power. Karzai was at the State Department this week for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari to discuss a joint strategy against terrorism, though the visit was inconveniently soured by the killing of as many as 100 Afghan civilians or more by US military strikes. However awkward, Karzai refused to allow the this symbolic display of ‘unity’ pass by and expressed his gratitude for Clinton “showing concern and regret” and added that “we hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.” Yet on Friday he adopted a markedly different tone to the media and demanded an end to US air strikes. With elections looming clearly Karzai recognises the political implications of his past grovelling and schmoozing with the Americans. Biting the hand that feeds you springs to mind.

When President Hamid Karzai drove to Kabul airport to fly to America earlier this week, the centre of the Afghan capital was closed down by well-armed security men, soldiers and policemen. On his arrival in Washington he will begin two days of meetings, starting today, with President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari about their joint efforts to combat the Taliban. Karzai is also to deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution think tank on “effective ways of fighting terrorism.”

The title of his lecture shows a certain cheek. Karzai’s seven years in power since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 have been notable for his failure to prevent their resurgence. Suppose the president’s motorcade this week had taken a different route and headed, not for the airport, but for the southern outskirts of Kabul, he would soon have experienced the limits of his government’s authority. It ends at a beleaguered police post within a few minutes’ drive of the capital. Drivers heading for the southern provincial capitals of Ghazni, Qalat and Kandahar nervously check their pockets to make sure that they are carrying no documents linking them to the government. Continue reading “Afghans to Obama: Get Out, Take Karzai With You”

Kabul’s New Elite Live High on West’s Largesse

Patrick Cockburn reports about the self-enriching practices of the Western ‘donor’ community in Afghanistan. As despicable as it may be to siphon off wealth from one of the poorest countries in the world, it really ought to come as no suprise. It is but the continuation of the the multi-billion international development industry’s standard practice. Graham Hancock, a former World Bank employee and one of the first to expose the endemic corruption of the aid policies of the IMF, World Bank and USAID in the late 1980s, aptly calls them the “Lords of Poverty“.

Kabul – Vast sums of money are being lavished by Western aid agencies on their own officials in Afghanistan at a time when extreme poverty is driving young Afghans to fight for the Taliban. The going rate paid by the Taliban for an attack on a police checkpoint in the west of the country is $4, but foreign consultants in Kabul, who are paid out of overseas aids budgets, can command salaries of $250,000 to $500,000 a year.

The high expenditure on paying, protecting and accommodating Western aid officials in palatial style helps to explain why Afghanistan ranks 174th out of 178th on a UN ranking of countries’ wealth. This is despite a vigorous international aid effort with the US alone spending $31bn since 2002 up to the end of last year.

The high degree of wastage of aid money in Afghanistan has long been an open secret. In 2006, Jean Mazurelle, the then country director of the World Bank, calculated that between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of aid was “badly spent”. “The wastage of aid is sky-high,” he said. “There is real looting going on, mainly by private enterprises. It is a scandal.”
Continue reading “Kabul’s New Elite Live High on West’s Largesse”

Pakistan has world’s attention now

Veteran journalist Eric Margolis on the overblown hysteria in Washington and the affluent quarters of Islamabad about the Taliban threat. This context is useful for understanding why the present Pakistani military operation in Malakand portends catastrophic consequences. Margolis’s comment about the rebellious Pashtun being seen as heroes may be true of those fighting in Afghanistan but not of the ones across the border. In Pakistan they are led mostly by extreme elements who have little support. Nevertheless, as Anatol Lieven observed after a recent visit to the region, ‘the level of support for them there is such that crushing them completely would take a huge campaign of repression.’

PARIS — The Taliban are coming! The Taliban are coming!

French troops in Afghanistan were just rocketed by Taliban.

Last week, a bunch of lightly-armed Pashtun tribesmen rode down from the Malakand region on motorbikes and in pickup trucks and briefly swaggered around Buner, only 100 km from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Hysteria erupted in Washington. Hillary Clinton, still struggling through foreign affairs 101, warned that these scruffy tribesmen were a global threat.

Pakistan’s generals dutifully followed Washington’s orders by attacking the tribal miscreants in Buner, who failed to obey the American raj.

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‘Up to 100 dead’ in Afghan raid

The great British historian Mark Curtis has a name for the victims of Western state terrorism – ‘Unpeople‘. Their fate is barely registered in the annals of Western history, they have no names, no faces, erased from our collective memory. Dozens of them were massacred by US bombs on Monday. Al Jazeera reports:

Up to 100 Afghan civilians may have been killed during an air raid by US forces during a joint operation targeting suspected fighters, a provincial governor has said.

If the claims are verified, the deaths in Farah province on the western border would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single incident since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Rohul Amin, the governor of Farah province, said on Wednesday that he feared that 100 civilians had been killed in the Bala Baluk district of the province, about 600km from Kabul, the capital.

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Crusaders in Afghanistan

The British imperial army was often preceded by Christian missionaries in its African conquests. As the following shows, the US has evolved a more efficient system integrating the missionary function into the military itself.

‘A day after the Pentagon accused Al Jazeera of being ‘irresponsible and inappropriate’ for broadcasting the ‘hunt for Jesus’ in Afghanistan footage, the network releases unedited tapes,’ reports Jeremy Scahill.
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Major Foreign Tests Likely Over Next 100 Days

Jim Lobe‘s prognosis for the Obama presidency’s upcoming 100 days:

While Barack Obama has clearly improved Washington’s image abroad during his first 100 days in office, the next 100 will almost certainly prove much more challenging for the new president’s foreign policy.

Putting aside the possibility that the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression could become much more severe than the White House currently anticipates, or that the swine flu currently spreading out of Mexico explodes into a modern-day version of the 1918 epidemic over the coming months, Obama will face a series of difficult decisions on how to deal with a plethora of actual and potential geo-strategic crises.

Continue reading “Major Foreign Tests Likely Over Next 100 Days”

Eric Margolis on Pakistan and Afghanistan

Eric Margolis is one of the world’s leading experts on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is particularly insightful in this interview with Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio.

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj: Liberation or Domination, discusses the causes of instability in Pakistan, the unrealistic expectations the U.S. places on its puppet governments, the Taliban’s inability to fill the Pakistan power vacuum and why the U.S. can’t resist the lure of imperialism.

MP3 here. (23:59)

Eric Margolis is a regular columnist with the Quebecor Media Company and a contributor to The Huffington Post. He is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet.

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