The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

American Withdrawal in Afghanistan Shows Horror of Imperialism

Aug 30, 2021

This article is from the August 23 workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

One cannot help but be sickened and revolted by the images from Afghanistan. The fiasco of the American army and the collapse of the regime that it was defending caused a wave of panic in Kabul’s population. As soon as they knew that the Taliban were coming, thousands of Afghans rushed to the airport to try and flee the country. But the American soldiers denied them access to the airport. A number of people were killed, either shot or crushed in the stampede. The American army stopped them from embarking, abandoning those on whom it has relied for years but also all those who fear the infamous dictatorship of the Taliban.

Even more revolting is the war that has now lasted more than 20 years, waged on the pretext of fighting terrorism. The Afghan people were the first to suffer, as a result of the atrocities committed by the Taliban and by the American army.

The American army claimed to be fighting the Taliban, the armed reactionary groups that are again trying to impose their dictatorship over the Afghan people, particularly over women. But American leaders are responsible for bringing the Taliban into being. In the late 1970s, they funded and armed the Islamic militia who were fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The same militia turned against them and after gaining power were chased out. But the 20-year U.S. military occupation gave them time to regroup and now they are back in power once more.

The United States may well have spent trillions of dollars on this war but chose not to organize the saving of several thousand Afghans. How much would it have cost to airlift them to safety? A drop in the ocean when compared to the amount spent on bombs and other engines of war.

But we should hold no illusions: we can see that the United States chose not to help the population of Haiti, which is only a few hundred miles off the American coast and has just been hit by an earthquake. In the exact same way that they chose not to help when an earthquake hit Haiti ten years ago, killing 200,000 people and destroying the capital. Another situation where a tiny fraction of the money spent by the American army on killing, destroying and burning in Afghanistan would have been enough to rebuild the small country of Haiti, the poorest on the American continent. Something they still have not done, not even partially.

The French army and French imperialism have done nothing more than act as lackeys to American imperialism in Afghanistan. But we should not forget that the French army is leading the war that has been waged in Mali for years. A war waged using the same excuse of the war on terrorism, a war that has inflicted the same suffering on local populations and with the same predictable result.

This is imperialist domination of the world in all its horrific splendor.

Everything that happens in Afghanistan concerns us, the workers here, not least because Western leaders, those primarily responsible for the chaos over there, will use it against us. No sooner had the Taliban begun to enter Kabul than Macron and other political leaders began to raise the specter of another wave of migrants that must be stopped.

There is no border that will stop these human beings from fleeing death, from trying to save their own lives and their children’s lives. From a humanitarian point of view, they should be allowed to settle where they wish, including to join friends or members of their family who have already emigrated. But leaders like Macron prefer to deflect discontent by using migrants as scapegoats.

They hope to divide workers even further by stigmatizing those who migrate from Afghanistan, along with those who come from Arabian and Turkish regions or who are simply Muslims. Workers must not allow themselves to be fooled and they must recognize who their real enemies are.

Emancipating workers and breaking free of capitalist exploitation also means overthrowing the power of imperialism in France, in the United States and in all imperialist countries. These two tasks are one and the same thing.