The Spark

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

Catastrophe in Afghanistan:
The Product of Imperialism’s Wars, Declared and Covert

Aug 30, 2021

The following editorial came from the Spark workplace newsletters during the week of August 23, 2021, before the bombing at the Kabul airport.

“Gut-wrenching”? The whole situation of the Afghan poor population is gut-wrenching. And U.S. imperialism is directly responsible for it.

In just this last year alone, 550,000 people were displaced by war, drought, and hunger. According to the United Nations food agency, one third of the population is going hungry every day. Two million children are malnourished. Tens of thousands of children are dying for lack of food.

This was the situation when U.S. puppets ran the country—before the Taliban took over.

In 20 years’ time, seven million Afghans were driven from their homes, one of the worst refugee crises the world has seen. Several million Afghans escaped the hellhole of war in Afghanistan—only to end up in the hellhole of refugee camps in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

In cold, dry numbers, this is part of the human cost of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

The mortal cost of the 20-year declared war was almost 200,000 Afghan dead, over half of them civilians. About 2,300 American troops and 1,200 troops from other NATO countries also died.

Over the war’s 20 years, nearly 800,000 U.S. troops circulated through Afghanistan. Added to them were no one knows how many “private security contractors,” i.e., mercenaries. Added to that were the hundreds of thousands in militias and drug gangs headed by Afghan warlords, paid with U.S. cash, plus a venal political caste which dispatched millions of U.S. dollars into their bank accounts outside the country. All of this bore down on the Afghan population.

The 20-year declared war was a product of U.S. covert action in the region over the 22 years before the “declared war” started. For almost two decades, the U.S. poured in money and weapons to build up fundamentalist Islamic militias. Its goal was to weaken the secular Afghan government, then supported by the Soviet Union. It was a typical “Cold-War” covert action, aimed at undermining the Soviet Union.

Afghanistan was drawn into a brutal 10-year war and the Soviet Union was undermined. And there was “blowback”—directly onto the American population. Among the “covert” operatives, through which the U.S. funded all these “black ops,” was a Saudi national by the name of Osama bin Laden. Among the fundamentalist religious militias was one which became al-Qaeda.

What started out as an attempt to create problems for the Soviet Union ended up bringing down the World Trade Center, and taking out a small part of the Pentagon. Three thousand U.S. civilians paid the price for U.S. covert actions.

In 2001, after 9/11, the U.S. declared war on Afghanistan, intent on demonstrating to the world that the U.S. had not been weakened. It expected to send troops in and bring them right back out.

Instead, U.S. troops found themselves fighting against militias the U.S. had helped create. Many were in gangs run by warlords. One of them, organized in Pakistan, became the Taliban. The U.S. caught its own army in a war of its own making.

The “gut-wrenching” catastrophe of Afghanistan was created not by any single U.S. administration, but by every one of them stretching back from Biden to Trump to Obama to Bush Jr. to Clinton to Bush Sr. to Reagan to Carter. It’s not a question of administrations, but of the imperialist system that every one of these American presidents served.

The war in Afghanistan is not the first and it won’t be the last war against peoples of the world. So long as capitalism continues there will be wars like this, many of which will “blow back” on the laboring population in the imperialist countries themselves. Catastrophes like Afghanistan will not stop until capitalism is ripped out all over the world, and especially in the big imperialist powers.

Maybe we can’t imagine the working class being strong enough to get rid of capitalism. But by denouncing imperialism and its wars, taking our stand with the peoples of the whole world today, we start down a road that can lead us there tomorrow.