The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Afghan War:
A Human Catastrophe

May 16, 2011

Under its Western-backed regime, Afghanistan has become the poorest country in Southern Asia and one of the world’s ten poorest countries, depending on the measures used. Conditions have become even worse than they were in 2004, when, despite the destruction caused by the blind bombing of the invasion and the two previous decades of war, the country was still in 6th position on the U.N. poverty scorecard. Overall, according to U.N. agencies, 20 million of the country’s 26 million inhabitants live under the internationally recognized poverty line. And such figures do not take into account the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who still live in refugee camps in Pakistan and in Iran.

Countless factories have been closed down for lack of parts, lack of energy or due to attacks from resistance groups, not to mention those which have been destroyed by coalition bombing or missiles as a result of “faulty intelligence.” The jobless count reaches as much as 80% in some of the country’s urban areas.

Even in the most urbanized parts of the country, electricity is seldom available for more than a few hours a day, when it is available at all. In Kabul, the majority of the four million inhabitants, most of who flocked to the capital in order to escape from the rural combat areas, live in squalid conditions, without drinking water or functioning sewage systems. Buildings destroyed by the Western bombing stand in the middle of makeshift squats and shanties. Only the rich Western-controlled central area enjoys the trappings of modern amenities. But these are out of bounds for ordinary Afghans.

The situation of women is especially dire. With the exception of a small minority among the better-off layers, little has changed in the condition of women under this regime which, according to U.S. and British leaders, was meant to free Afghan women once and for all from the feudal yoke of Islamic fundamentalism. Against the backdrop of worsening material conditions, this also means worsening physical conditions for women: after Sierra Leone, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

Meanwhile the heroin capitalists are ostentatiously showing off their increasing wealth in places like Herat, for instance, a northwestern provincial capital and a traditional smuggling conduit to neighboring Iran. There, in the middle of the vast amounts of rubble left over from three decades of war, among the derelict mud compounds where the majority of the population lives, extravagantly luxurious houses occupied by heroin capitalists have sprung out of the ground, surrounded by lush gardens, which seem out of place in such arid surroundings.

One of the most obvious results of the U.S. war on Afghanistan has been to make heroin production the mainstay of Afghanistan’s economy, accounting for more than 50% of its GDP. What a record for U.S. imperialism to be proud of!