NATO/US/Canada: You Can’t Always Get What You Want!
7 Years of Resistance by Afghan People Shows Absurdity of Bloodshed and Occupation
By Nita Palmer
On November 5, 2008, tragedy struck Wech Baghtu, Afghanistan. Dozens of friends and families who were spending the day celebrating wedding festivities ended the day with tears and anger as they saw 37 of their relatives, including 10 women and 23 children, massacred by a US-led air strike.
Sadly, tragedies – or better to say, systematic massacres by occupation forces - like this one are now a fact of daily life in Afghanistan. On July 6, 2008 in Afghanistan’s Khost province, 47 civilians were killed in another attack on a wedding party. On August 22, 90 civilians were killed, including 15 women and 60 children. The list of atrocities like this is endless. In total they amount to a 39% increase in civilian killings by occupation forces in 2008, according to the United Nations.
This is the human rights and freedom that the US, Canada, and NATO have brought to the people of Afghanistan.
On top of the air strikes, conditions of life for Afghans are deteriorating rapidly. In November, Afghan deputy health minister Faizullah Kakar reported that 66% of Afghans are suffering from depression, caused by constant war and the daily struggle to survive. Afghan women, who shoulder the burden of caring for hungry families, and who are facing rising levels of violence in the home, are affected most. Ninety percent of Afghan women suffer from depression, according to the same report.
This is the liberation that the US, Canada, and NATO have brought to the women of Afghanistan.
As well, in recent years, physical and sexual abuse of children has tripled in Afghanistan’s northern provinces, according to Said Muhammad Sami, head of Afghanistan’s human rights commission for the north. Meanwhile, 60,000 Afghan children are addicted to opium, which their parents often give them simply to cope with daily life. Thousands of Afghan children are also unable to go to school because they must work to feed their families, particularly if one or both of their parents has been killed in the war.
This is the education and better life that the US, Canada, and NATO have brought to the children of Afghanistan.
The ‘democratically elected’ president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is well-known for his dealings with warlords. He has so little support from Afghan people that he is jokingly referred to as the ‘mayor of Kabul.’ Corruption on all levels of police and government runs rampant.
This is the modern democracy that the US, Canada, and NATO have brought to the people of Afghanistan.
Today, the US, Canada, and NATO are facing increasing resistance from the very people they claimed to be helping: millions of Afghans who have seen that the claims of bringing freedom and democracy to their country were nothing but lies. But as resistance has increased, so has the campaign by the occupation forces to conquer Afghanistan, no matter the human cost.
Expansion of War
Since 2005, Canada has extended its mission in Afghanistan three times: first, until 2007, then until 2009 and most recently, until 2011. All these decisions to extend and increase funding for their war drive have occurred without public consultation or debate with ordinary people in Canada, and certainly not with people in Afghanistan. Canada has increasingly been calling on other NATO countries to step up their war effort, through more troop contributions or funding. As well, the US has been increasing their war drive against Afghan people, most recently with the addition of 21,000 more troops. And we can be sure that recently elected US President Barack Obama will continue this war drive in Afghanistan. “…We have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan. And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism,” Obama said during his presidential campaign.
The war is no longer contained within Afghanistan’s borders, either. There have been dozens of air strikes by US drone planes this year against Afghanistan’s neighbouring country, Pakistan, with the excuse of attacking ‘Taliban insurgents’ in Pakistan. These air strikes have killed nearly 400 innocent Pakistani civilians. The air strikes have been met by feeble protests by Pakistan’s pro-US government, although in the end the Pakistani government is doing nothing to stop them.
Election of a Pro-War Government in Canada
In Canada, the recent election of the Conservative Party with again another minority government means that the ruling class of this country – the owners and executives of banks and corporations – wanted in the government of Canada an executive body which would push forward their profit-hungry, pro-war agenda. The result of election was very disappointing for the Canadian ruling elite, since they needed very badly a majority Conservative Harper government to carry out their austerity program and war at home. However, throughout their election campaign and now, the Conservatives are saying that they will withdraw Canadian troops from Afghanistan by 2011. But isn’t this the same thing that was said in 2005 when they extended the mission to 2007? In 2007, when they extended it to 2009? In 2008, when they extended it to 2011? Working people in Canada have no reason to trust the government of Canada to end the war.
As for the other major political parties in Canada, although they make noises of protesting the Conservatives’ agenda in Afghanistan, none of them will demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan. The Greens, the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois all advocate either a UN mission or a withdrawal of combat troops only (meaning troops could stay in Afghanistan as long as they weren’t directly involved in fighting!). Neither of these options suggest respect for self-determination of Afghanistan or an end to the suffering of Afghans at the hands of foreign occupation troops.
The Economic Crisis and the Imperialist Quagmire
The US/Canada/NATO occupation forces are in a quagmire in Afghanistan. As Afghans are increasingly resisting the foreign troops in their country, occupation forces are intensifying their war on Afghan people – but they are not winning. An estimate by the International Council on Security and Development shows that the Taliban now have a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan, up from 54% a year ago. Actual government control is limited to a few major cities. Looking at Afghanistan’s history, the chances of the occupation forces winning this war against Afghan people are very slim. Since the days of Alexander the Great in 360 BC, various foreign forces have attempted to occupy and control Afghanistan. All have been driven out, sooner or later. The resistance of the people of this magnificent highland of Afghanistan is not limited just to modern times. Afghans hold a long and proud history of resistance to foreign occupiers.
But despite this history and the many clear indications that the US, Canada and NATO are going to meet the same defeat in Afghanistan, they carry on this war. Why is that? Because economically and militarily, Afghanistan is an extremely important geopolitical area for imperialist countries like Canada. Afghanistan sits at the crossroads of the major trade markets of Europe, Asia and the Middle East - and any imperialist country which controls this area has a clear economic advantage over their rivals. As the world economy enters into free-fall, with stock markets from the US to Canada to Japan to France plunging daily, imperialist countries are scrambling to stave off their credit, financial and market crisis through war and occupation. In previous crises, such as in World War I and World War II, the world’s major powers fought each other directly for control of the world’s markets and resources. But today’s wars are not fought directly since the whole earth would be lost if this happened– instead, they are fighting over and resources indirectly, by occupying and plundering third world countries like Afghanistan.
Militarily, Afghanistan is also important, particularly for the US. Afghanistan shares a long border with Iran, a country which is directly in the sightline of the US for the next attack because it has stood as an independent country resisting US domination. For the US, Afghanistan could also provide an important base from which to launch an attack on Iran, and to intimidate and potentially attack Afghanistan’s neighbours, as well as other Central Asian countries.
Attacks at Home, Attacks Abroad
The victims of the war drive in Afghanistan are not just Afghan people – they are poor and working people within Canada and the US, and other NATO countries as well. Here in Canada, the economic crisis has caused over 300,000 jobs lost in the past four months alone. Meanwhile, important social programs have faced massive funding cuts in recent years, and many of these newly-unemployed workers will soon find themselves with the grim prospect of trying to feed their families on a welfare budget which cannot even feed and shelter one person. The Canadian ruling class and the major federal political parties which already have begun to race each other to save this rotten system will indeed need to produce a miracle to guarantee the same relative comfort as before for working people.
The total estimated cost of the war in Afghanistan so far is $11 billion. By 2011, that number is expected to be $22 billion – or $1,500 per family in Canada. Even as this money is being poured into new tanks, new helicopters, and $150,000-per-round heat-seeking missiles for the war in Afghanistan, working people here in Canada are facing the consequences of money being slashed from health care, education, and countless other programs. $22 billion could easily add thousands of new beds to hospitals across Canada as well as hundreds of medical centers in the poor or remote areas. $22 billion could easily put thousands of students through their post-secondary education. $22 billion could easily feed and clothe the 760,000 children (that’s one in nine children) who live in poverty in Canada.
We may be halfway across the world from people who are fighting for their rights in Afghanistan, but our struggles are not so different. The same government of Canada who is stripping away the basic human rights of Afghan people is attacking our basic right to a dignified life here in Canada. The same government that has ignored the self-determination of Afghans, has disregarded the self-determination of Indigenous people in Canada for hundreds of years. The same government of Canada which is murdering Afghan men, women, and children is sending thousands of young people from Canada to kill and be killed in this illegal, criminal and brutal war. We, poor and working people and people from all walks of life must join with our Afghan brothers and sisters to demand:
Canada/US/NATO Out of Afghanistan Now!
Self-determination for Afghanistan Now!
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