What lies beneath the war in Afghanistan
by Eric Margolis
October 11, 2009
Truth is war's first casualty. The Afghan war's biggest untruth is, "we've got to fight terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them at home." Many North Americans still buy this lie because they believe the 9/11 attacks came directly from the Afghanistan- based al-Qaida and Taliban movements. False. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and Spain, and conducted mainly by U.S.-based Saudis to punish America for supporting Israel.
Taliban, a militant religious, anti-Communist movement of Pashtun tribesmen, was totally surprised by 9/11. Taliban received U.S. aid until May, 2001. The CIA was planning to use Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida to stir up Muslim Uighurs against Chinese rule, and Taliban against Russia's Central Asian allies. Al-Qaida only numbered 300 members. Most have been killed. A handful escaped to Pakistan. Only a few remain in Afghanistan. Yet President Barack Obama insists 68,000 or more U.S. troops must stay in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida and prevent extremists from re-acquiring "terrorist training camps."
This claim, like Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, is a handy slogan to market war to the public. Today, half of Afghanistan is under Taliban control. Anti-American militants could more easily use Somalia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, North and West Africa, or Sudan. They don't need remote Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks were planned in apartments, not camps.
The United States should not be waging war on Taliban. However backwards and oafish its Pashtun tribesmen, they have no desire or interest in attacking America. Even less, Canada. Taliban are the sons of the U.S.-backed mujahidin who defeated the Soviets in the 1980s. As I have been saying since 9/11, Taliban never was America's enemy. Instead of invading Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. should have paid Taliban to uproot al-Qaida.
The Pashtun tribes want to end foreign occupation and drive out the Afghan Communists, who now dominate the U.S.-installed Kabul regime. But the U.S. has blundered into a full-scale war not just with Taliban, but with most of Afghanistan' s fierce Pashtun tribes, who comprise over half the population.
Obama is wrestling with widening the war. After eight years of military operations costing $236 billion US, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan just warned of the threat of "failure," a.k.a. defeat. Canada has so far wasted $16 billion Cdn. on the war. Western occupation forces will be doomed if the Afghan resistance ever gets modern anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. The U.S. is sinking ever deeper into the South Asian morass. Washington is trying to arm-twist Pakistan into being more obedient and widening the war against its own independent- minded Pashtun tribes -- wrongly called "Taliban." Washington's incredibly ham-handed efforts to use $7.5 billion US to bribe Pakistan's feeble, corrupt government and army, take control of military promotions, and get a grip on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, have Pakistan's soldiers on the verge of revolt.
Obama has been under intense pressure from flag-waving Republicans, much of the media, and the hawkish national security establishment to expand the war. Israel's supporters, including many Congressional Democrats, want to see the U.S. seize Pakistan's nuclear arms and expand the Afghan war into Iran. Obama should admit Taliban is not and never was a threat to the West; that the wildly exaggerated al-Qaida has been mostly eradicated; and that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is causing more damage to U.S. interests in the Muslim world -- now 25% of all humanity -- than Bin Laden and his few rag-tag allies. The bombing in Madrid and London, and conspiracy in Toronto, were all horribly wrongheaded protests by young Muslims against the Afghan war.
We are not going to change the way Afghans treat their women by waging war on them, or bring democracy through rigged elections. I wish Obama would just declare victory in Afghanistan, withdraw western forces, and hand over security to a multi-national stabilization force from Muslim nations. Good presidents, like good generals, know when to retreat.