Afghanistan – Pride & Prejudice – Part V

Dahr Jamial in Truthout  23rd Sept 2009: “On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men’s and women’s wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters. …Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.

…at medical facilities in Afghanistan directly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency vehicles and the obstruction of medical operations during wartime.

… Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and also a Truthout contributor, is very clear about the overall illegality of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. ‘The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of US law,’ Cohn, who is also a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and recently co-authored the book ‘Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent’ said, ‘Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men – 15 from Saudi Arabia – did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is illegal.’

Thus, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, along with the ongoing slaughter of Afghan civilians and raiding hospitals, are in violation of international law as well as the US Constitution. ”
Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 22nd September 2009: “A ‘new strategy’, an ‘integrated strategy’ for Afghanistan these are the buzz phrases coming from politicians in Washington and London, and NATO commanders.

They are used to disguise a situation where NATO-led forces, in the first joint ground operation by the most powerful alliance in the history of the world, is in danger of losing a counter-insurgency operation against a brutal enemy driving around in pick-up trucks or on motorbikes firing grenades and planting roadside bombs.

…One might ask what NATO forces and their governments have been doing over the past eight years? The short, indeed only, answer is that they have been wasting time, billions of dollars, and dare one say it, lives….If British forces are to stay in Afghanistan, their government should give them proper protection. Otherwise, they should get out.”
Richard Norton-Taylor and David Batty in the Guardian, 16th September 2009:”…the British commander tasked with promoting engagement with Taliban “moderates” and convincing them to switch sides said he believed many in the enemy ranks had ‘done nothing wrong’.

Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb told the Independent many of the Taliban’s fighters carry a sense of ‘anger and grievances which have not been addressed’.

‘We need to take a good look at the people we consider to be our enemies,’ he said.

‘A lot of young men fighting us have not done anything wrong. They have anger and grievances which have not been addressed.’

‘The better life they expected has not materialised – these are the people we must talk to, but we must make sure we have something to offer them’.”
Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, 16th September 2009:”British troops are far away from winning the battle against a resilient enemy in Afghanistan, Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, admitted today. But he rejected suggestions that the presence of large numbers of foreign troops in Afghanistan made it harder to achieve a political settlement of the conflict…

…Earlier, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said western powers fighting in Afghanistan needed to develop a “more cunning” strategy if they were to succeed in achieving their aims.”

Alison Smale in the New York Times, 13th September 2009: “Mr. Brzezinski, who was national security adviser when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, endorsed a British and German call, backed by France, for a new international conference on the country. He also set the tone for a weekend of somber assessments of the situation.

He noted that it took about 300 U.S. Special Forces – fighting with Northern Alliance troops – to overthrow Taliban rule after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Now, however, with about 100,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, those forces are increasingly perceived as foreign invaders, much as the Soviet troops were from the start, Mr. Brzezinski said.
Gary Younge in the Guardian, 13th September 2009: “…Bribing leaders in the Afghan hinterland to take sides in the clash of civilisations is no easy task. The CIA used to offer local chiefs money for information, but then they would spend it so ostentatiously they effectively blew their own cover. Operatives used to give weapons before it turned out that the arms were being sold on and used against them.
But one day they decided that if they were going to rally the fence-sitters to the enlightenment cause they should strike below the belt. During a conversation with a chief in his 60s who had four younger wives, a CIA official pulled out a bag of Viagra. ‘Take one of these,’ he said. ‘You’ll love it’.

….It’s a far cry from the days shortly before the war when Laura Bush took over her husband’s weekly radio address to back the use of B-52s in the name of sex equality, and Cherie Booth railed against the Taliban from behind a burka. …”
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in the Guardian, 12th September 2009: “At first light last Friday, in the Chardarah district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, the villagers gathered around the twisted wreckage of two fuel tankers that had been hit by a Nato airstrike. They picked their way through a heap of almost a hundred charred bodies and mangled limbs which were mixed with ash, mud and the melted plastic of jerry cans, looking for their brothers, sons and cousins. They called out their names but received no answers. By this time, everyone was dead….”

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, 8th September 2009: “…The front line is indivisible, from the poppy fields of Helmand to the backrooms of Walthamstow. The war is just. I disagree. What is incontrovertible is that the trial concluded on Monday at Woolwich crown court was of a real plot, not a student prank. ….Indeed the nearer the trail got to Afghanistan, the colder it went. …The Afghan ‘war on terror’ is based on two fallacies: that the Taliban and al-Qaida are one; and that terrorists have a need for any specific territorial support. Neither is true. The Taliban are introverted fundamentalists who had no quarrel with Britain or America in 2001, and were deeply split after 9/11 on whether to let Osama bin Laden and his hated Arabs stay. A little patience from the west ñ or at least from Washington ñ and Bin Laden’s fate would have been sealed in a pool of blood. He had too many enemies. But democracy is a dreadful diplomat.

….This serious plot was not thwarted by special forces roaming the Tora Bora mountains or by brave infantrymen risking their lives in Helmand valley. It was thwarted by assiduous policing. The outcome was a victory that has eluded the entire genius of the British and American armies. Against terrorism, it suggests that good police work is the security we need, and clearly have.”
Jon Boone in the Guardian, 7th September 2009: “Winning hearts and minds was the UK military’s top priority, avoiding wherever possible indiscriminate air strikes, and trying to prove their presence is improving the lives of Afghans.

But that is not the way ordinary Helmandis see it. Haji Torjan, a tribal elder who looks after the affairs of 500 families in the village of Sawaki Gharbai near the Shamalan canal, which saw fierce fighting for the Welsh Guards, said foreign forces do not understand the dynamics of village life, which are too often viewed from overhead aircraft.

‘We had a man in our village called Kamjan. He was an old man like me with a white beard, chosen by the village to be in charge of water distribution from the canals to our crops.

‘He is an innocent man who has nothing to do with the Taliban or the government. But 11 days ago he was on his motorbike and had covered his body with his shawl, and a helicopter flying above him slowed down and started shooting and killed him.’

He also said that people have been shot at for using torches at night whilst irrigating their fields or lighting lamps to prepare for the pre-dawn Ramadan meal. It’s a claim made by three other people from separate villages, but is robustly denied by British officials who say that, on the contrary, they encourage people to use lights at night for their own safety….

Major Jon Baxter, a senior official at the British provincial reconstruction team in Lashkar Gah, said: ‘We are the only people out there fighting by Queensberry rules. When people come to us they are absolutely adamant that we are responsible because they saw an Apache helicopter go overhead when they heard a Taliban mortar or IED go off. When we ask for collaborative evidence we often don’t get it.’

….As with everyone else interviewed he appeared to dislike the Taliban at least as much as the “foreign forces”, as the British are mostly known (although occasionally they are called the ‘Red English’, apparently in part because of the resemblance of their complexion to pomegranates and partly because of memories of the Soviet Red Army in the 1980s)….”

Gareth Porter in Asia Times, 5th September 2009: “The rapid rise in casualties over the past two years is attributed in part to the increased lethality of the Taliban mines. But according to the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the increased Taliban threat to US and NATO vehicles comes not from any new technology from Iran but from Italian-made mines left over from the US Central Intelligence Agency’s military assistance to the anti-Soviet jihadists in the 1980s.”
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, 1st September 2009: “All interventions in the muslim world tend to ignore all previous interventions, as Lawrence of Arabia furiously complained. Each starts as if on a blank sheet of paper and creeps along a painful path from ignorance to wisdom through trial and error. It was scarcely believable on Monday that the senior American general in Kabul, Stanley McChrystal, should advise his president after eight years of occupation that it might be a good idea to train the Afghan army and ‘win hearts and minds’.”