Nov 25, 2002
With the Bush administration pushing to escalate the current "low-intensity" war against Iraq into a full-blown war, another war has practically disappeared from sight in the United States: the war in Afghanistan, which Bush long ago proclaimed as a victory.
But there's been no victory in Afghanistan – not for anyone, except maybe Bush and his political ambitions.
Until the September attacks, the Bush presidency inspired nothing but doubt about its legitimacy. He took the presidency, even though the majority had voted for Gore, thanks to the disputed election in Florida, a state run by his brother. George W. Bush appeared to know less than nothing about countries overseas.
Then came September 11th. Anyone who really looked could have called into question what Bush was saying about the hijackers. The evidence and the money both led to Saudi Arabia, a country to which the Bush family, the oil corporations and the U.S. government all had close ties. The Bush family and entourage had close business ties with the bin Laden family, although Osama bin Laden was no longer there. He was in Afghanistan, although no longer in favor with the CIA.
So the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan and quickly declared a victory, even though they couldn't find Osama bin Laden nor the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. U.S. bombings may have pushed the Taliban out of power – but only into an underground where they continued to operate under other names.
For the Afghani population, the war in Afghanistan has not wound down. U.S. bombing runs continue, despite repeated incidents in which innocent civilians – including women, children and older people – have been killed.
Conditions remain pitiful in this very poor country. Desperate farmers are growing poppies again in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces – encouraged by the warlords who once provided a large share of the world's heroin supply. Those few farmers who can avoid mines or bombs dotting their fields lack seeds, equipment, safe transportation to markets or financing to start other crops.
According to the UN, the one and a half million Afghan refugees from this war face a cold, hungry winter. It is estimated that half of them live in the slums around Kabul. Between the war and the aid workers and troops from other countries, prices for food and rent have gone sky high in Kabul.
The Bush administration bragged about how well women would do under the new regime. In the provinces nearest to Kabul, UNICEF reports 16, 674 girls go to school out of an estimated school-aged population of about eight million. If half of those children are female, then less than one half of one% are going to school. At the beginning of November, four schools for girls were bombed and burnt to the ground.
These were not the only attacks on schools in Afghanistan attempting to stop girls from gaining an education. In the part of the country under control of the former Northern Alliance warlords, there are almost no girls going to school and very few women teaching. Women covered from head to foot are still the rule. Human Rights Watch has reported the use of torture and murder of prisoners held in these regions.
Hamid Karzai, the president brought over from the U.S., is protected by American bodyguards. He might be a little nervous since two ministers in his government have been murdered.
What is Afghanistan today? A country torn apart by the same old warlords using armed terror against the population. The U.S. also has its soldiers there – more than 9,000 U.S. military personnel are officially in Afghanistan – with the numbers slowly increasing. In addition, there are an estimated 4,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries, plus a UN force of 4,500. What these soldiers have found is that the Afghan population sees them as an army of occupation.
This war was first presented by Bush as a successful fight against terrorism. Today, since it isn't going so well, he sweeps it under the rug. All the more so since his administration seems eager to pursue a new war on Iraq, a war which can only make what is going on in Afghanistan today look like child's play.