[THS] !!!!!! The Real Reasons Were in Afghanistan
The Harder Stuff in news and commentary
ths at psalience.org
Thu Aug 12 00:00:10 CEST 2010
Saving Women and Preventing Genocide: The Real Reasons Were in Afghanistan
By Bretigne Shaffer
August 11, 2010 "LewRockwell" -- So now the cheerleaders for war would have us
believe that they are more concerned for the welfare of Afghan civilians than are
those who wish to end the US occupation.
First we have White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sanctimoniously imploring
the editors of Wikileaks not to post more information that the administration believes
might endanger the lives of local Afghan informants:
"You have Taliban spokesmen in the region today saying they're combing through
those documents to find people that are cooperating with American and international
forces," said Gibbs. "They're looking through those for names, they said they know
how to punish those people."
Next, there is Time magazine, a recent cover of which was adorned with the badly
mutilated face of a young woman and the headline "What Happens if We Leave
Afghanistan." (A statement, not a question.) As if the implicit pitch for more war as a
solution to violence against women did not provide enough cognitive dissonance, the
woman pictured was actually disfigured by family members at the order of a Taliban
official last year eight years after US forces entered Afghanistan.
In fact, the Time piece fits very neatly with something found in one of the leaked
documents that has the White House so concerned. Titled "CIA Red Cell Special
Memorandum: Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led
Mission-Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough," the document ."..outlines
possible PR strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a
continued war in Afghanistan."
The Memorandum continues:
"The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified
within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan
refugees and women... Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for
Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European
women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western
Europe toward the ISAF mission... Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan
women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large
and disproportionately female audiences." (Emphasis mine.)
Says Lucinda Marshall at CommonDreams.org ."..I rather suspect that lurking out
there in the fog of war are more memos and reports that will document the use of
women's lives as an official strategy to call for war. Clearly, it gives additional and
very troubling context to the Time piece. Since the get go with this war, journalists
have been embedded' by the military. It would appear that that they still are and not
just in war zones."
Perhaps most bizarrely though, The Wall Street Journals Bret Stephens likens a US
troop withdrawal to an invitation for a Khmer-Rouge style reign of terror and
"All in all," says Stephens, "America's withdrawal from Southeast Asia resulted in
the killing of an estimated 165,000 South Vietnamese in so-called re-education
camps; the mass exodus of one million boat people, a quarter of whom died at sea;
the mass murder, estimated at 100,000, of Laos's Hmong people; and the killing of
somewhere between one million and two million Cambodians.
"It is a peculiar fact of modern liberalism that its best principles have most often
been betrayed by self-described liberals. As with Cambodia, they may come to know
it only when for Afghans, at least it is too late."
Stephens is correct in thinking that there is a parallel to be made between
Afghanistan in 2010 and Cambodia in the 1970s. Its just not the one hes thinking of.
Just as US military occupation in the Middle East has been a boon for recruitment
among Islamic extremist groups, the US bombing of neutral Cambodia during the
Vietnam War inspired many in that country to support the radical communist Khmer
Rouge, giving it the support necessary to take control of that country and ultimately
inflict the horrors Stephens condemns.
Between October 4, 1965 and August 15, 1973, the US military dropped some
2,756,941 tons of ordnance on over 100,000 sites in Cambodia. To put this in
perspective, according to historian Taylor Owen, ."..the Allies dropped just over 2
million tons of bombs during all of World War II, including the bombs that struck
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 15,000 and 20,000 tons, respectively. Cambodia may well
be the most heavily bombed country in history."
In a 2006 article written with historian Ben Kiernan, Owen makes a convincing case
for what has long been asserted by many observers: Without the indiscriminate
carpet bombing of what was first a nominally neutral country and later a US ally, the
Khmer Rouge would likely have remained a radical fringe organization with little
chance of coming into power. It was the US military assault on villages and
countryside that killed as many as 600,000 and drove surviving Cambodians into the
arms of the radical communist group, allowing them to seize power in 1975.
As journalist John Pilger puts it: "Unclassified CIA files leave little doubt that the
bombing was the catalyst for Pol Pot's fanatics, who, before the inferno, had only
minority support. Now, a stricken people rallied to them."
Having ignored the role of US military interventionism in helping to bring about the
very atrocity he warns of, Stephens writes:
."..somebody might want to think hard about the human consequences of
American withdrawal. What happens to the Afghan women who removed their
burqas in the late fall of 2001, or the girls who enrolled in government schools?"
Sadly, it is very likely that they will continue to face abuse, disfiguring attacks and
even death for their acts of simple courage just as they do today under US
occupation. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that these kinds of attacks and
the overall quality of life for Afghan women have only grown worse with the US
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reported in March of 2008 that
violence against women had nearly doubled from the previous year, and a 2009
Human Rights Watch report concludes that "(w)hereas the trend had clearly been
positive for womens rights from 20012005, the trend is now negative in many
areas." Other reports (including one from Amnesty International in May of 2005) call
the first part of that statement into question:
Says Ann Jones, journalist and author of Kabul in Winter, "For most Afghan women,
life has stayed the same. And for a great number, life has gotten much worse."
Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Womens Mission, says "the attacks
against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence
has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in
Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for
refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim
Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says "The
situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the
Taliban time. ...(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes,
away from education. Today, the same situation persists. Theyre kept in burqas, in
homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone."
"Five years after the fall of the Taliban, and the liberation of women hailed by Laura
Bush and Cherie Blair, thanks to the US and British invasion," wrote The
Independents Kim Sengupta in November of 2006, "such has been the alarming rise
in suicide that a conference was held on the problem in the Afghan capital just a few
The US military has made life worse for women in Afghanistan, not better. Is it
possible that a US exit will result in their lives becoming even worse than they are
now, as Bret Stephens and Time magazine fear? Of course it is possible. But what is
certain is that the occupation has had a harmful effect on the lives of the vast
majority of Afghan civilians not a positive one as the promoters of war as a vehicle
for social change assert. Also indisputable is that the Taliban has grown in strength
since the occupation began, and it only continues to do so. This should come as no
surprise to anyone who has looked closely at the motives for terrorism. Even US
intelligence agencies have acknowledged that the US occupation of Iraq has
strengthened Islamic fundamentalism and ."..made the overall terrorism problem
To call for even more certain death and destruction as a defense against imagined,
possible worse bloodshed reveals a curious kind of moral reasoning. For lets not
forget what it is that Time magazine (despite its protestations to the contrary) and
Stephens are defending: The indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and
children, in the pursuit of what they believe to be some greater good.
When Stephens decries the "killing of an estimated 165,000 South Vietnamese in so-
called re-education camps; the mass exodus of one million boat people, a quarter of
whom died at sea..." he conveniently ignores the numbers of those who died
because of US military intervention in Southeast Asia. This would include a good
portion of the over 2 million Vietnamese (over a million of whom were civilians); the
tens of thousands of Laotians and as many as 600,000 Cambodians as well as the
thousands killed by land mines and Agent Orange, both of which continue to kill and
harm even 35 years after the USs departure. Yet presumably, by Stephenss
accounting, these deaths and many many more would have been justified had the
US military stayed in Southeast Asia and managed to save the 415,000 Vietnamese,
100,000 Laotians and 12 million Cambodians. One is compelled to ask: At what point
does this kind of moral calculus cease to make sense? Is there any point at which the
number of those who might be saved no longer justifies the number of innocents
Forget for the moment that the US government did not enter Cambodia for the
purpose of saving its citizens from the ravages of the Khmer Rouge; Forget that its
actions in fact facilitated that murderous regimes rise to power; Forget even that,
after its exit from Vietnam, the US government allied itself with Pol Pot, with Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger famously saying to the Thai foreign minister in November of
1975 "You should also tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them. They
are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in our way. We are prepared to
improve relations with them."
Forget also the suspension of disbelief that is required in order to accept the
proposition that governments engage in wars for the purpose of protecting civilian
populations. Especially foreign civilian populations.
Forget all of that because really, it is beside the point. The point here is not the
hypocrisy, dishonesty or even naïveté of those who would support war as a means of
"protecting innocents." It is the moral decrepitude of presuming to calculate the
worth of one persons life against anothers, or even to declare that a certain number
of deaths (always, someone elses death) are "acceptable" by virtue of preventing
The reality is that this kind of exercise can never be anything more than an
intellectual parlor game. As a practical matter, there is never any certainty about how
many will or will not die if a given course of action is taken. Of course no-one could
have known with any certainty how many people would die after the US pullout from
Vietnam any more than anyone could have known with certainty that the US
bombing campaign in Cambodia would eventually lead to the deaths of 12 million
Cambodians at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. No matter how good the information
is, one is ultimately dealing in the realm of speculation.
But more to the point, if one murder can be justified in this way, then so can a
thousand. And then a million. It soon becomes a silly, bloody game of accounting
where after a point the numbers become meaningless and there is just one group of
savages pitted against another, with nothing to distinguish them but perhaps a
marginally lower body count, or slightly less stomach-churning methods of torture.
Earlier this year, a man named Mohammad Qayoumi published a photo essay in
Foreign Policy magazine. The photos were taken from an old book published by
Afghanistans planning ministry in the 1950s and 60s, and were accompanied by
Qayoumis commentary recalling the Afghanistan he had known as a young man. The
images depict men and women in western dress going about their daily lives in what
appears to be a fairly well-developed, functioning society. Qayoumi recounts:
"A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and
women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul;
factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition
of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national
infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with
outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could
open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has
been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real."
The images are in stark contrast to pretty much any photos from Afghanistan today,
and are a poignant reminder of how much that country has lost. They also give the
lie to views such as that of former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince who recently said:
"You know, people ask me that all the time, 'Aren't you concerned that you folks
aren't covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or
Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, 'Absolutely not,' because these people, they
crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They're barbarians.
They don't know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there."
As Qayoumis photo essay demonstrates so clearly, Afghanistan is not a devastated
nation because its people "have a 1200 AD mentality." It is devastated because it has
been invaded and occupied by hostile foreign powers for years. Anyone who truly
cares about the welfare of the Afghan people would do well to remember this fact
before proposing more of what has caused that countrys problems as their solution.
Bretigne Shaffer [send her mail] is a writer and filmmaker, and the author of Why
Mommy Loves the State. Visit her website.
Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com.
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