Dec 1, 2008
Afghanistan is the war that we are told is the "right war" – but it is just as wrong as the one in Iraq. The people of Afghanistan did not attack the World Trade Center on 9/11 – yet the people of Afghanistan are the ones who are suffering and dying under the U.S. attack.
Over the last three years, the U.S. has carried out a vicious bombing campaign. In 2006, there were 10 times more air strikes and bombings than the previous year. In 2007, the number of air strikes almost doubled again. At the same time, U.S. and NATO forces also stepped up large-scale house-to-house searches and raids.
In the last 15 months, more civilians have been killed than in the previous four years combined. At the same time, the U.S."s hand-picked president, Hamid Karzai, has built a government made up of reactionary tribal chiefs who have divided up the country into their own private fiefdoms.
The U.S. and the Karzai government have managed to make Afghanistan, already one of the poorest countries on the planet before the war, even poorer. Afghanistan is now ranked by the U.N. as fifth from the bottom, in terms of development, in the world. At least half the economy is once again based on the production of opium, supplying more than 90% of the opium for heroin in the world. Warlords in the Karzai regime, as well as Karzai's own brother, profit from the trafficking in drugs. U.S. drug eradication efforts are merely the cover for carrying out a war against the insurgency, with the population suffering the brunt of the attacks. The other main economic engine is the trade in arms, given the enormous military presence inside the country.
Kabul itself lies in tatters. There is electricity and running water at the center of the city where the government resides, along with the offices of U.S. and international military authorities, the U.N. and various aid organizations and housing and shopping for their staffs. But poor Afghans live in crumbling hovels with no electricity and often without safe drinking water. Kabul, a city built for 800,000 people, now holds more than four million, most squeezed into informal settlements and squatters' shacks. There are massive craters from decades of war.
Living conditions are deplorable. Most estimate unemployment as high as 80% in some parts of the country. More than 42% of the Afghan population lives in extreme poverty and the average Afghan family earns about 10 dollars per month. Given the skyrocketing food and fuel prices over the last year, it means that half of the population is not able to purchase enough food to guarantee bare minimum health levels, according to the Brookings Institute. Reports are emerging of parents selling their children simply to make ends meet. In one district of a southern province last spring, things got so bad, villagers started eating grass. Oxfam has warned that this winter, hunger may kill up to 80% of the population in some northern provinces caught in a vicious drought.
The situation of women is especially dire. After Sierra Leone, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with at least 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births. Thus, a staggering 24,000 women die every year – 60 pregnant women every day.
Karzai's government, just like the Taliban in its areas, imposes sharia, that is, reactionary fundamentalist religious law, which has a horrific impact on women. In fact, Karzai's Supreme Court is a direct inheritance of the Taliban.
This is the right war? No way. This is an imperialist war – every bit as abominable as the U.S. wars on Viet Nam or Iraq.