Genghis Khan could not hold onto Afghanistan. Neither will the United States

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by Dahr Jamail:

The United States Empire is following a long line of empires and conquerors that have met their end in Afghanistan. The Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, Turks, Mongols, British and Soviets all met the end of their ambitions in Afghanistan.

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.

Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident “not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between nongovernmental organizations and international forces.

Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.

Impeding operations 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.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a public affairs officer for the US Navy, confirmed the raid, and told The Associated Press, “Complaints like this are rare.”

Despite Sidenstricker’s claim that “complaints like this” are rare in Afghanistan, they are, in fact, common. Just as they are in Iraq, the other occupation. A desperate conventional military, when losing a guerilla war, tends to toss international law out the window. Yet even more so when the entire occupation itself is a violation of international law.

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.

And of course the same applies for Iraq.
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Afghan Resistance against US Invaders

Marjah is indeed Fallujah. Like Fallujah, it will become a symbol, the defining moment in the war against the Afghan people. US Marines may “mow the grass”, eradicate the “weeds”, and plant their sterile seeds of Western-style democracy and economic prosperity as much as they like. However, “the Taliban is the future, the Americans are the past in Afghanistan,” as former head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Hamid Gul recently told Al-Jazeera. This is clear to any sensible observer.

by Eric Walberg:

Apart for Abu Ghraib, Fallujah is perhaps the Iraq war’s defining moment. The hatred and resentment of the occupied people found a catalyst in the four Blackwater mercenaries, who were killed and strung up, and no doubt deserved their fate, certainly as symbols of a cynical, illegal invasion. The US soldiers — who are just as mercenary, being a professional army invading a country sans provocation — came and “destroyed the village to save it.”

The “success” of the blitzkrieg war in Iraq has been difficult to duplicate in Afghanistan, “the heart of darkness”, one British commander quipped to his troops as they went into battle, despite dropping far more bombs — many of them radioactive. The unflagging resistance of the Afghans, their refusal to submit to the occupiers, is that because they realise the invaders are not there for their purported altruistic motives. The thousands of civilians and resistance fighters who have been killed by airstrikes — none of them guilty of anything more egregious than defending their homeland — is more than ample proof, as is the craven propping up of a US-imposed government, and the proliferation of US bases in the country. The unapologetically un-Islamic ways of the invaders, their lack of even the remotest understanding of the people they are occupying, is a constant insult to a proud and ancient people.

The new exit plan, so it goes, involves “clearing” all regions of Taliban — US Marines call it “mowing the grass”, acknowledging that as soon as they murder one group of resisters and leave, more pop up. The “new” strategy is to bring in ready-made Afghan administrators and police to create a prosperous, peaceful society once the “enemy” have been destroyed, “winning the hearts and minds” of the locals. “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” said chief honcho General Stanley McChrystal.

But wait a moment. Is it possible the invaders are the enemy? And who are these newly discovered Afghan officials? Are (famously corrupt) Afghan government officials and police nominally loyal to NATO forces, trucked in by the invaders, going to be welcome in remote villages as ready-made trusted representatives of the people? And wasn’t this precisely the failed policy the US followed in Vietnam ? This old “new” policy was what convinced United States President Barack Obama to go along grudgingly with the Pentagon’s demands to radically increase NATO force — though on the condition that the whole operation be complete by next year. He clearly was given no choice in the matter, and his “ultimatum” was dismissed by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates moments after Obama made it.

Not surprisingly, NATO forces have met strong resistance in Marjah as their onslaught enters its second week, from both the incredible, ragtag resistance and from locals, who doubt that the postwar reality will correspond remotely to the picture the invaders are painting. Tribal elders in Helmand this week called for an end to the “Moshtarak” offensive, citing Western troops’ disregard for civilian lives. Realising their “shock and awe” bombing kills civilians and turns locals against them, the invaders have reluctantly cut back, now authorising them only under “very limited and prescribed conditions.” Even so, over 50 civilians are among the dead so far — 27 in an airstrike in Uruzgan Province — and “friendly fire” killed seven Afghan police. Six occupiers were killed in one day alone, bringing NATO losses to 18 at the time of writing.

The latest propaganda ploy is to accuse the Taliban of using locals as “human shields” and of holing up near civilians. But surely it is the NATO forces that are using locals as human shields, invading their homes in search of the “enemy”, forcing them to betray their children and friends, often under torture in Afghan-run prisons. Even those Afghans who collaborate with the occupiers, taking their dollars, guns and uniforms, are in effect human shields for the troops. And when they realise their lives are on the line, they flee their paymasters. How else to explain the 25 police officers who left their posts last week and “defected” to the Taliban in Chak?

But Marjah is really just a microcosm for what the US is doing at this very moment around the globe — waging a veritable war on the world, in Iraq, Pakistan, expanding into Yemen, Somalia, Iran, supplementing bombs and soldiers with militarised sea lanes, forward military and missile bases on every continent, encircling “enemies” Russia and China.

The process is merely accelerating as the US loses its traditional edge in the world economy, outpaced by China . It is the logical next step for a deeply illogical economic system. It can’t be repeated too often: the US is frantically trying to consolidate its sole superpower status militarily before it loses the economic war. Read more of this post

A replay of Bunker Hill

Afghan fighters

By I. M. Mohsin

The operation code named ‘Mushtarak’, launched by the huge foreign forces along with some Afghan complement in Helmand has run into serious problems. Its projected aim was to provide security to the local people while dismantling ‘enemy’ strongholds in the same area. A tempestuous publicity campaign heralded the start of hostilities by the ISAF. Such media hype was considered necessary to warn the local people of the impending attacks. Many people, as such, migrated to other areas which would have caused great resentment among the afflicted Afghans. Subsequently, the foreign forces felt obliged to forbid any help to the Taliban by any resident. All such moves indicate that in nine years, the US army has not understood anything of the local culture which rules the roost, particularly when fighting the foreigners. If the Americans had heeded Gorbachev’s advice or that of their own ambassador in Kabul’s foreboding, they may have been better off. The real lesson that history teaches, as the Russians learnt the hard way after losing their Soviet Empire, is that atrocities by an awful power do not, generally, make the Afghans bend.

History also proves that despite the odds, they have always emerged successful. Licking its wounds caused by the exercise of vicious power, the aggrieved party waits to hit back. No wonder the Taliban, deriving strength from their history, took a serious dig at the foreign troops by saying that “the current occupiers of Afghanistan, like the Red Army will face defeat” on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of the defeated Russian troops.

In choosing the subject, I was influenced by the history of the American War of Independence. The ragtag force under George Washington conquered the Bunker Hill outpost of the British troops. Feeling outraged, the British commander rushed a strong contingent which drove the Americans away after some fighting. However, thereafter the US militia turned into Taliban. As the British forces started a withdrawal exercise, the Americans would waylay/ambush repeatedly with consequences for the then British ‘occupation’ force. This stands as a landmark development which finally led to the American Independence. It is difficult to make out how asymmetrical was the power between the parties then as compared with the AfPak tragedy. The strategy of the Afghans has always been a repeat of Bunker Hill. In fact, their battling prowess covers distinctly about 12 hundred years. The underlying hallmark of the same is that they have infinite patience in avenging the wrong that has been done to them more so by a foreigner. Read more of this post

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