Isn't This Enough?
Another six Canadian soldiers died horribly today in Afghanistan. So far, we have sacrificed 66 brave Canadian soldiers to this American imperialist war. Isn't that enough already?
Bring our troops home -- NOW!
Disrespecting The Troops
There is one unfortunate way in which Canada and the United States are twins -- that is in the disgraceful way that our governments treat the bulk of our armed forces. The same right-wing yahoo politicians who send our kids off to war -- the same wackos who say that because people like me don't agree with the war policies we are somehow dissing our troops -- these same loons are perfectly content to see "our boys" and their families live on handouts and scraps.
This story comes from California, but it is accurate in Canada too:
The soldiers' families "were waiting for day-old bread and frozen dinners packaged in slightly damaged boxes. These families are among a growing number of military households in San Diego County that regularly rely on donated food ... Too often, the supplies run out before the lines do, said Regina Hunter, who coordinates food distribution at one Camp Pendleton site ...
To the south, about 1,500 individuals pick up free food, diapers or furniture at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and several military-oriented distribution sites supported by churches and the San Diego Food Bank. The numbers don't include military households that frequent other charities countywide to get enough to eat...
“(Service members) struggle because of our cost of living,” said Faye Bell, executive director for the Military Outreach Ministry. “The lower-ranking enlisted guys do all the hard work and still have the stress of not being able to take care of their families the way they wish they could.”
Here in British Columbia, some of the most regular users of food banks and government welfare are service families.
This is truly what is disrespecting our troops -- making their families wait in line for food while they fight and die for their master's profits.
Free enterprisers everywhere must be cheering the news that opium production in Afghanistan has reached record levels this year. Proving that government regulations restraining an industry can be overcome even against overwhelming firepower. The corporatist elite that underwrites the Bush Administration should surely be cheered by this exercise in freedom. After all,
"opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers - virtually eradicating the crop in 2000 ... This year's increased poppy cultivation follows a 21 percent drop the previous year, suggesting the government has not followed through on warnings to farmers against planting poppies. Although 37,065 acres of poppies were eradicated this year, according to the Ministry for Counternarcotics, a campaign by police to destroy crops fell short of expectation."
Bravo for the fighting spirit of capitalism!
But oddly enough, the fine people of America don't think that heroin dealing is a trade they should support. Therefore, at least until the force of aggravated circumstances allows them to cancel or better control elections, the regime in Washington is obliged to put treasure and manpower into appearing to fight the War on Some Drugs. Hundreds of millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of American and allied troops. But oddly enough, that is fine too because this way the "defence" industry leg of the Military-Industrial-Media complex gets paid.
It's only Joe Schmo in America and Abdul Abdul in Afghanistan who get hurt. No wonder this guy looks bemused.
Another mission accomplished.
Score Another One For George
George Bush and his minions call the invasion of Afghanistan a huge success. Charles Krauthammer's gloating pre-election article is typical of the genre:
"[Afghanistan] represents the single most astonishing geopolitical transformation of the past four years ... creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war."
Rush Limbaugh calls the Afghani adventure "a profound and robust success," while Ollie North claims that the "the Afghan people are rejoicing," and saying that Bush's "Afghan achievement is enormous." The State Department lauds what it calls "humanitarian success stories" and the White House itself is endlessly plugging this foreign policy "success".
Needless to say, many observers disagree with the Administration's rose-tinted view of the situation on the ground. And so does reality. Just this weekend, for example, in the Ukraine we had yet more proof that simply allowing people to vote solves nothing, and the recent elections in Kabul which were cause for such momentous joy in Washington have similar value to those in Kiev.
More importantly for the long term, perhaps, is yet more proof that Afghanistan under the puppet American regime has become a narco-republic on a grand scale. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that
"opium cultivation has spread to all of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, making narcotics the main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples. Valued at US$2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to over 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP ... [C]orruption in the public sector, the die-hard ambition of local warlords, and the complicity of local investors are becoming a factor in Afghan life.”
"Years of war and tyranny have eroded Afghanistan's economy and infrastructure, yet a revival is underway. Afghans are busy starting their own businesses. Some 15,000 licenses have already been issued for foreign businesses and investors to explore economic opportunities in Afghanistan."
If so, score one for George!
Death of the Brave
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the sorry state of the American protectorate of Afghanistan. George Bush may declare it a major success, but anyone with half a brain agrees the situation is perilous, to say the least. As if further proof were required, even the brave folks at Medecins Sans Frontiers have abandoned the country.
"After having worked nearly without interruption alongside the most vulnerable Afghan people since 1980, it is with outrage and bitterness that we take the decision to abandon them," Marine Buissonnière, MSF's secretary general, said in a statement. "But we simply cannot sacrifice the security of our volunteers while warring parties seek to target and kill humanitarian workers. Ultimately, it is the sick and destitute that suffer."Five of MSF's workers were targeted and killed recently.
"The five MSF workers, who had been in a clearly marked vehicle, were shot dead in the north-western province of Badghis on June 2. Their car was found riddled with bullets and embedded with shrapnel from a grenade. MSF said government officials had presented it with credible evidence that local commanders carried out the attack, but added that the government had neither arrested those believed responsible nor publicly called for their arrest. "The Americans claim that their puppet Karzai controls the country. If so, he is responsible for the deaths and the failure to prosecute the killers. If he isn't in control, then Bush is shown to be a liar once again.
Whenever I hear George Bush claim the current situation in Afghanistan as a “victory” or a “success” for his regime, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The American invasion of a decayed State has led to the formation of a non-State; a loose confederation of warlords’ territories, with Karzai as US-puppet warlord of an attenuated Kabul region.
The elections that were supposed to have been the public façade behind which the continuing deadly civil war could be disguised from the tax-paying American public, has had to be postponed because the warlords cannot agree on the end result. The position of women -- a terrible position under the Taliban regime as the Bush propaganda machine never failed to report -- has not improved at all. They are still third-class chattels even in areas heavily patrolled by US troops. As Meena Nanji reports:
"For most women, life has not changed much since the ousting of the Taliban. While ostensibly there are increased opportunities: women can go to school, receive health care and gain employment, in reality few women can take advantage of these possibilities and they are largely restricted to Kabul. According to the many aid workers and Afghan women that I spoke to, women continue to be very fearful of the armed US-backed mujahideen who exert control over much of the country. Most women, even in Kabul, still wear the burqa (the head to toe garment that covers the whole body) as a protective measure against public humiliation and physical attack. The U.N and international human rights groups recently released reports detailing increased incidents of beatings, kidnappings and rape by U.S-funded regional warlords and their militia, stating: "local militia commanders…violate women's rights and commit sexual abuse with impunity".There is no sign at all that the insurgency (or resistance movement) is being contained; a hot war is being fought in many areas and US and other casualties continue to mount on a daily basis. The aid community cowers in fear. By any reasonable measure, Afghanistan is a mess. However, while Iraq gets all the headlines these days, the American military occupation of Afghanistan is far more important, with much larger implications strategically.
As reported at the time at my old Central Asia blog site, the attack on Afghanistan allowed the US to take advantage of a weakened Russia and a distracted China to plant huge permanent military garrisons throughout the heart of Central Asia. These bases ensure American complicity with some of the most repressive regimes in the world. They move American power from the strategic bases along the Pacific rim of Asia to the tactical heartland of the continent, and thuas form a major linchpin in the design of the strategic realignment currently being undertaken by the forces of America Inc. In Chalmers Johnson's excellent essay "America's Empire of Bases", he attempts to describe the immense imperial infrastructure currently in place.
"Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America's version of the colony is the military base ... Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and HAS another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories ... The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.And the purpose of all this? Power and control. The neocon imperial planners have identified an
These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo -- even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11 ... The Pentagon similarly fails to note all of the $5-billion-worth of military and espionage installations in Britain, which have long been conveniently disguised as Royal Air Force bases. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people's countries, but no one -- possibly not even the Pentagon -- knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years."
"arc of instability," which is said to run from the Andean region of South America (read: Colombia) through North Africa and then sweeps across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. This is, of course, more or less identical with what used to be called the Third World -- and perhaps no less crucially it covers the world's key oil reserves."It is also plain that the Asian portions of this "arc" cut directly though lands where Islam is the dominant cultural force. The Bush regime has not handled this aspect well. With the instincts of backwoods Know Nothings, they have demonized Muslims as a propaganda tool. This has brought its own set of complications. As Peter Singer puts it in his very useful "The War on Terrorism: The Big Picture":
"Relations between the world’s dominant state power and the world’s community of over 1.4 billion Muslim believers stand at question, with potential terrible consequences. More than some lost popularity contest, the deepening divide between the United States and the world’s Muslim states and communities is a critical impediment to success on a breadth of vital issues, ranging from running down terrorist groups, their leaders, and supporters, to the expansion of human development and freedom, whose absence steers the next generation of recruits to radicalism."Late in the game, maybe too late, the Powers of Central Asia have awakened to the danger. Russia is firmly opposed to American moves into places like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. They have made moves to strengthen their own military position in Kyrgyzstan, and late last year, the dictator of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, declared that he would not allow the US base there to become permanent. Chinese analysts suspect that the unannounced intention behind the new U.S. positions, particularly when coupled with Washington's newly intensified military cooperation with India, is the containment of China. They are reorganizing their own forces accordingly.
No matter the resistance, the imperial forces of America Inc will stay in place. As Walter Russel Mead boasts in his "Power, Terror, Peace and War: America's Grand Strategy In A World At Risk," "Those who cannot stand us must learn at least to fear us." Putting aside the jingoism, for American capitalism there is hardly any choice. This empire is now a vital part of the sovietized American economy, an economy that would implode without the hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars poured into imperial procurements. Chalmers Johnson once again:
"Fully one third of the funds recently appropriated for the war in Iraq (about $30 billion), for instance, are going into private American hands for" services to the imperial military machine.In some ways, the continuing chaos in Afghanistan is a boon to the Bush regime. It grants a kind of justification for the continued presence of American forces throughout the region. However, it is a two-edged sword, because Bush has to disguise the truth as best he can, in order to keep telling the American public that Afghanistan is a success. As usual, the mainstream media are helping him out. The networks and cable shows concentrate their cameras on the continuing -- and far more colourful -- disaster in Baghdad, all but ignoring the dusty and complicated and crucial mess further east.
Breaking The Silence
If you want to see a great documentary about the phony War on Some Terror, focusing on how the US created the very "terrorists" they are currently battling.
And you don't want to help buy Harvey Weinstein another yacht by plunking down $8 or $10 for "Fahrenheit 911".
Then switch on the speakers, get comfortable and for free watch John Pilger's very fine 45-minute piece called Breaking The Silence.
U.S. Regime in Kabul Deep In Drugs
When the Taliban ran Afghanistan, they almost eradicated the opium crop. Their methods may have been reprehensible (though not that different, I believe, than what the neo-cons would launch on America's inner cities if they were given the chance) but they succeeded. Now, more than two years after the overthrow of the militants, the US-puppet regime of Hamid Karzai is awash in drugs and corruption.
Don't take my wotrd for it. Here is Ali Ahmad Jalali, Interior Minister of that same regime:
"I can't tell you particularly who is doing what, but generally I can say, yes, we have proof that government officials, including security officials, are involved in drug trafficking," said Jalali, according to an account in the Washington Times. Government officials either protect the trade for a cut in the profits or are directly involved, he said. "In some parts, criminals are supported by those who have power," he said, referring to regional warlords such as Abdul Rostum who hold sway over large parts of the country. "In some cases, we have been able to identify and arrest them; in other cases, we have not been able to capture them." That is too often because of corruption, he said. "Unfortunately in Afghanistan administrative corruption is one of our main problems."Afghanistan is anticipating a record crop of opium this year. Maybe that's what Bush was talking about when he called Afghanistan "a success" the other day.