Red Flag Express №22

The Little War That Couldn’t

His assessment about the Afghanistan occupation – “We’re not going to win this war” – is perhaps the most direct opinion of the situation we have heard coming out of the military circles of those nations involved in the conflict, but it is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last. And while it is also perhaps the most accurate, it yet again fails to realize just why the mission will fail, and why it that failure was inevitable. But regardless of the reasoning behind it, the fact remains that the Taliban is regaining strength and momentum at an alarming rate, and there seems to be little that the occupying forces, ostensibly led by NATO but in reality directed by the United States, can do about it.

The Soviet Union learned this lesson two decades ago, and it is not just the end result of that war that bares a significant similarity to what is occurring today. Like the NATO occupation forces currently stationed throughout the country, the Soviet Union came up against a barrage of resistance, both peaceful and violent, from Afghanis of all walks of life. Though historical accounts of the situation give US and Saudifunded Mujahadeen most of the credit for the collapse of the Soviet occupation, it was not just they who defended the country – ordinary Afghanis, organizations, groups and political parties which had nothing to do with Jihadism or religious fundamentalism took part in the struggle. In fact, although it is rarely understood in the West, the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Soviet forces in Afghanistan was not immediately filled with religious fanatics but was in fact relatively democratic, involving groups from a variety of ideologies. It wasn’t until the Taliban’s takeover in the mid-90s that Afghanistan was turned over to fundamentalism.

And today we are seeing much of the same. The Taliban is growing in popularity not just with deeply religious Afghanis but also with ordinary civilians who have reason to struggle against the occupying powers of the NATO coalition, and a rash of other organizations of varying denominations have followed suit, including some which have existed and struggled since the Soviet occupation during the 1980s.

The reasoning behind this most recent failure is relatively simple, yet completely dogmatic to those who lack the objectivity to see beyond their immediate surroundings and who exist still believing that the war in Afghanistan is some modern-day romantic adventure of the likes of the Second World War and the destruction of fascism. War is not that simple anymore; the invasion and occupation of Germany and Japan following the end of that war has almost nothing in common with the occupation of Afghanistan. The first was a legitimate act of defence against a viciously imperialistic, fascist aggressor which threatened peace and freedom globally; the invasion of Afghanistan, from the outset, was a war of aggression and brutality whose primary victims were the people of Afghanistan itself, and whose aim was not peace and freedom but the replacement of one tyrannical system of control with another, more financially lucrative system – capitalist “democracy.” Whereas before, rule of law was held and maintained by armed groups of men with a central figure of unquestioning authority, it is now maintained by privileged aristocrats and rich politicians, and enforced by armed groups of men with matching uniforms. It is no surprise that resistance to the occupation has grown over the years, and will continue to grow in the years to come. And while it is unfortunate that the majority of those who seek to struggle against their occupiers have sought out the religious fundamentalism proposed by the Taliban, it does not change the fact that the struggle is not only inevitable, but also necessary.

So then we reach the equally inevitable conclusion that the occupation must end. But how? And what is to happen with Afghanistan? These are fundamental questions, which are far too often smeared by those who support the war, who make emotional appeals about the degradation that would occur in Afghanistan should NATO forces withdraw. This may or may not be true, but whether or not it is does not change the fact that western imperialism has no place determining Afghanistan’s political, social and economic development – particularly when it does so for its own benefit, above and beyond the benefit to their victims. Again, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not the occupation of Nazi Germany – in fact, a closer resemblance would probably be Germany’s invasion and occupation of France in 1940, an occupation which also met with determined resistance.

And while it may be difficult to fight against our “morals” (undoubtedly implanted by pro-war politicians) and conclude that the occupation must end and Afghanistan’s future be decided by Afghanis themselves, that is what must occur. And while it may take several more years of hardship, development and evolution – and revolution – are unstoppable forces of historical inevitability, which will transform Afghanistan for the better. Though we may be called callous and pro-Taliban for our efforts, these accusations do not change the fact that it is more callous to plunge an entire country into the absolute chaos of war in an attempt to force their development towards what is most beneficial for us and our system of global capitalism, an attempt which has killed tens of thousands (and hundreds of thousands more elsewhere). The best we can do – and that which we must – is to allow the people of Afghanistan to fight fundamentalism on their own terms and in their own ways, not with our money and our politics but with their own unstoppable thirst for freedom.

For that to happen, however, things must change here – and by change, we do not a session of musical chairs in the House of Commons. Radical change is needed, and, like in Afghanistan, change is an absolute necessity.

From a reader
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