May 23, 2005
For three days in May, angry anti-American demonstrations shook cities and towns across Afghanistan. Protests started on May 10 and 11 in the eastern city of Jalalabad, where thousands of protesters ransacked and burned down the governor's office and other government buildings. The local TV station, United Nations offices and the Pakistani Consulate were also attacked. The next day, the protests spread to 10 of the country's 34 provinces and to neighboring Pakistan. There were three separate demonstrations in Kabul, the Afghan capital, where protesters burned the U.S. flag and effigies of George Bush, and called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
With the help of U.S. troops, the Afghan police and army eventually put down the protests, but not before they fired on protesters and killed at least 17 people.
U.S. government officials quickly blamed a small Newsweek article for causing the wave of protests. Newsweek had reported that U.S. military investigators at the prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, had flushed a Koran down the toilet in an attempt to "rattle suspects." Under pressure, Newsweek first apologized and then retracted the article, saying that their source who had reported the Koran incident was unable to prove it.
What a feeble, cowardly attempt to hide behind a few lines published in a magazine! The incident Newsweek reported may or may not have been true. But there are hundreds and hundreds of undisputed facts about the actions of the U.S. military that Afghan people are aware of, because they witness them on a daily basis.
Afghan people know, for example, that the U.S. military has been viciously bombing their country under the pretext of "fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban." They know that the U.S. military randomly rounds up innocent Afghans, sends them halfway around the world to Guantanamo, where it tortures them to press any kind of confession out of them. And they know that the U.S. has brought back to power the same warlords who, while fighting each other in the 1990s, ruined the country and killed, raped and robbed the population. These warlords continue to commit these crimes with impunity today, under U.S. supervision.
All this is certainly no secret. People around the world, including Americans who read the newspaper, also know that the U.S. is responsible for the same type of crimes against the people of Iraq. And people everywhere understand that there is a continuous, consistent policy behind the actions of the U.S. government around the world. It's an aggressive, reckless, murderous policy which has only one goal: to control the world's resources for the benefit of U.S. corporations. In a word, it's a policy of imperialism.
This is what has angered people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Newsweek report, whether truthful in its details or not, was no more than a spark that ignited an explosion. But the explosive mixture was already there, brewing for a long time. It's the mixture of angry, impoverished masses around the world and what they rightfully see as their oppressor and enemy: U.S. imperialism. And the mixture is certainly still there and brewing, pregnant with more, bigger explosions to come.