Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Myths of Afghanistan, Past and Present

William Blum, Counterpunch, Aug 6, 2009

On the Fourth of July, Senator Patrick Leahy declared he was optimistic that, unlike the Soviet forces that were driven from Afghanistan 20 years ago, US forces could succeed there. The Democrat from Vermont stated:

“The Russians were sent running as they should have been. We helped send them running. But they were there to conquer the country. We’ve made it very clear, and everybody I talk to within Afghanistan feels the same way: they know we’re there to help and we’re going to leave. We’ve made it very clear we are going to leave. And it’s going to be turned back to them. The ones that made the mistakes in the past are those that tried to conquer them.” (Vermont TV station WCAX, July 4, 2009, WCAX.com)

Leahy is a long-time liberal on foreign-policy issues, a champion of withholding US counter-narcotics assistance to foreign military units guilty of serious human-rights violations, and an outspoken critic of robbing terrorist suspects of their human and legal rights. Yet he is willing to send countless young Americans to a living hell, or horrible death, or maimed survival.

And for what? Every point he made in his statement is simply wrong.

The Russians were not in Afghanistan to conquer it. The Soviet Union had existed next door to the country for more than 60 years without any kind of invasion. It was only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists; precisely what the United States would have done to prevent a communist government in Canada or Mexico.

It’s also rather difficult for the United States to claim that it’s in Afghanistan to help the people there when it’s killed tens of thousands of simply for resisting the American invasion and occupation or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; not a single one of the victims has been identified as having had any kind of connection to the terrorist attack in the US of September 11, 2001, the event usually cited by Washington as justification for the military intervention. Moreover, Afghanistan is now permeated with depleted uranium, cluster bombs-cum-landmines, white phosphorous, a witch’s brew of other charming chemicals, and a population, after 30 years of almost non-stop warfare, of physically and mentally mutilated human beings, exceedingly susceptible to the promise of paradise, or at least relief, sold by the Taliban.

As to the US leaving … utterly meaningless propaganda until it happens. Ask the people of South Korea — 56 years of American occupation and still counting; ask the people of Japan — 64 years. And Iraq? Would you want to wager your life’s savings on which decade it will be that the last American soldier and military contractor leaves?

It’s not even precise to say that the Russians were sent running. That was essentially Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision, and it was more of a political decision than a military one. Gorbachev’s fondest ambition was to turn the Soviet Union into a West-European style social democracy, and he fervently wished for the approval of those European leaders, virtually all of whom were cold-war anti-communists and opposed the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

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