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Meanwhile, Back in Afghanistan

Posted on Jan 17, 2006

By Robert Scheer

What’s up with Osama bin Laden?

Remember when capturing him “dead or alive” and eliminating his Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda, as President Bush promised, was what the “war on terror” was all about?

Instead, the president got distracted with his idiotic invasion of Iraq, where Al Qaeda had been effectively banned by the secular dictator the U.S. deposed. Now we are left holding the bag in two desperate countries with bleak futures where perpetrators of 9/11 are reportedly thriving and guerrilla warfare and terror bombings have continued to increase.

“Al Qaeda is quickly changing and we are not,” Timothy J. Roemer, a member of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, appointed by Bush, warned last month. “Al Qaeda is highly dynamic and we are not. Al Qaeda is highly imaginative and we are not.”

Yet, in his speeches, Bush clings to the notion that the battle against terrorism is going well because, according to his spin, we have been able to eliminate it in Afghanistan and are now destroying the last vestiges of this scourge in Iraq. On his visit to Kabul last month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld elaborated on this absurdity by declaring bloody, backward Afghanistan a “model” of progress in the war on terror—even as he admitted that “Iraq is several years behind.”

Rumsfeld’s claim of progress was treated as ridiculous by Afghan security officials interviewed in a BBC survey of opinion following the defense secretary’s visit. “We are very worried now,” one senior police official told the BBC. “The Taliban and Al Qaeda are getting more threatening.”

Last Sunday, U.S. sources claimed to have targeted Bin Laden’s second-in-command with the bombing of a village on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan. But, as is so often the case when air power is applied to nonmilitary targets, the corpses left in the debris of a devastated village did not include the intended target. In the aftermath, American flags were once again burning in the region as anti-American protests swept Pakistan.

Meanwhile, next door in Afghanistan, a new rash of suicide bombings—25 in four months, according to the Los Angeles Times—is providing evidence that Al Qaeda’s old partner in crime, the Taliban, is back with a vengeance. Over the weekend, at least 20 civilians were killed by a suicide bomber, while a Canadian diplomat was killed in another attack. This month is on pace to be the bloodiest that the country has seen since the U.S. invasion.

NATO members with troops operating out of Kabul are balking at sending more, while at least one, Holland, is considering pulling out altogether from a much-hyped occupation that seems to be accomplishing little.

“What happened to the new roads and irrigation canals, the jobs we were told about?” village elders plaintively inquired of a BBC correspondent. Indeed, five years of “nation-building” has left Afghanistan a festering wound, with primitive warlords still dominant, an isolated capital with no control of the countryside, no national infrastructure, and a once-again booming opium trade the country’s only economic bright spot. “Of course we’re growing poppy this year,” one district chief told the BBC. “The government, the foreigners—they promised to help if we stopped. But where is it?”

This occupation is only the latest in centuries of cynical or, at best, ineffective meddling in Afghanistan. From the Brits to the Soviets to the Republicans, everybody has seen the place as useful to achieve ends that have nothing to do with making it a better place to live. As we once again draw down our annual economic commitment to Afghanistan’s rebuilding, from $1 billion to $600 million annually, it is clear the Bush team is hoping the country will once again recede from the global stage into unseen anarchy.

After our dramatic initial stab into Afghanistan after 9/11, the Bush administration has shown no willingness to do the heavy lifting that would be required to make the country once again the functioning nation it was before Cold War games tore it apart. Rather, as with the rest of administration policies, a token effort has merely been a cover for conning the American public into believing Bush is effectively pursuing the war on terror.

Since most Americans could not find the country on a map, this deeply cynical approach will continue to work—at least until the next time a gang of marauders trained in the primitive badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and funded by our “allies” in Saudi Arabia launch a devastating attack on U.S. soil.


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By Roland T. Stiles, December 31, 2007 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment
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you can’t handle the truth

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By Phil Menke, January 22, 2006 at 4:28 am Link to this comment
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Sadly, we learn nothing from a deeper look at the causes of past failures in the occupancies of Afghanistan. The complete ignorance regarding the lessons history should have taught us is astounding.
What’s even more sinister could be that the current administration has a deeper understanding of those lessons from history, but has other ulterior motives for disregarding them.
  What’s most tragic of all is that too many of our general populace including our current elected officials may have the same problem.
  Show me a powerful nation that fails to learn from history and witness the failure of that civilization to survive.

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By JW, January 21, 2006 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment
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kudos, Eleanor.

Even quieter, more underground (because fewer Americans are junkies than drive cars) is the interest in Afghan poppies. Oil - everyone needs it. Heroin, opium - only a select, targeted population get access from the feds right now. A decade from now it will be another story.

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By SamSnedegar, January 21, 2006 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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I’d like to correct something: Congress doesn’t FUND things, it appropriates money for the executive to spend, and the DoD is at present supposed to be funding things with the money appropriated by Congress.

The crime and the shame of it, beyond all the corpses strewn in the Bushitter’s path, is that none of the money APPROPRIATED has been used to fund anything beyond some wallpaper in few elementary schools. The people of Iraq are still without electricity most of the time, and the water system is near useless.

The money Congress appropriated for Afghanistan operations was used in preparation for the Iraq invasion which had NOT been authorized.

And it is my belief that the money supposedly “lost” in Iraq never got there in the first place; it may not ever have been borrowed from China.

No one cares about Afghanistan; only about the pipeline there from the Caspian oil supply.

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By Bill McGuire, January 19, 2006 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
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We seem to feed into the feeding frenzy going at the president, but the problem is much deeper than that.  May I remind everyone that this could not occur if congress did not support these efforts with funding.
Problem is, in my opinion, is that we continue to forever vote the same people back into these positions that have brought us this far.  These are people who, for their own advancement, support their parties and not the American people.  Both parties have thus morphed into a single group.
The bigfgest difference one can find between most of our leaders is that some of them prefer lobster, while others prefer steak.
It is apparently much easier to keep track on one or two individual, though, which allows the major movement to remain intact.

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By Eleanore Kjellberg, January 18, 2006 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment
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Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran and the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, play a central role in the global heroin trade.

Native to Central Asia, the poppy plant thrives in the dry, warm climate and provides the raw opium from which heroin is produced. Combined with extreme poverty, endemic corruption, and powerful local warlords and cartels, the drug trade has flourished in the region, especially in Afghanistan.

Even as the Bush administration hails Afghanistan as a major foreign policy success, the country’s soaring drug profits now equal about half of its gross national product and have become the principal source of funds for reconstruction, outpacing foreign aid. The drug trade also is fueling corruption at the highest levels of the government, involving army generals and other top officials who routinely work with the US military on antiterrorism operations, according to the officials.

Opium poppy trade which produces 75 percent of the world’s opium and its derivative, heroin—accounted for more than half of opium production worldwide, and is estimated to have been the source of over 70 percent of the world’s heroin in 2000.

In 2002 and 2003, income from opium reached $4.8 billion, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, nearly twice that of income from international aid for projects that began in that time period. Next year, it is expected to climb even higher, as two out of three farmers questioned by a United Nations survey said they planned to significantly increase their opium crop.

Afghanistan’s leading part in the heroin trade is mainly due to the devastating effects of the Soviet occupation and American-backed resistance in the 1980s, which created an economy dependent upon a foreign influx of cash and arms. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, so did American financial and military support of opposition factions.

Years of subsequent civil war only worsened living conditions in what was already a criminalized society with a destroyed infrastructure. Many Afghans, from impoverished peasants trying to live off war-ravaged land to power-hungry local warlords eager to augment their munitions, turned to the drug trade for the easy cash it provided.

It appears that the world is not only flat but it’s also quite stoned—I guess that explains it!

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By Steven Domingos, January 18, 2006 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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Re: “...the next time a gang of marauders trained in the primitive bad lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and funded by our “allies” in Saudi Arabia launch another devastating attack on U.S. soil.”

Pardon my ignorance, but could someone tell me, did some (or all) of the 9/11 hijackers get training in
Afghanistan or Pakistan?

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By Patrick Briggs, January 18, 2006 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
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Fixing Afghanistan is not just a failure of the Bush Administration.  It is a failure of the world’s developed countrys’ leadership too.

It doesn’t help that our nation’s media spends so much time with ‘infotainment’, failing utterly to keep the public informed.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the public isn’t pressing for more accountability in Afghanistan.

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By Ruth, January 18, 2006 at 8:35 am Link to this comment
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This is not about Afghanistan. I have been reading about Christopher Sheer’s book of the five major lies told by this admin…..there is a 6th lie which may prove to be the most dangerous of all, because it exonerates Bush & Co. of WANTING TO START THE WAR PLANNED FOR THE WHOLE MIDDLE EAST. FIRST STOP OF THE JUGERNAUT…IRAQ. John Kerry,(Jan. 17th 06, speaking from Jerusalem to Wolf Blitzer, CNN) said that ‘false intelligence led to the Iraq war’ (paraphrased)....isn’t that the perfect alibi for any bloody minded warmonger that wants to butcher another Middle East country for the next thirty years….or more? Why has the neo-con initiative as influential and aggressive as it was in starting the Iraq war, being moved further and further from the discussion and put on a shelf in a dark closet?

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By jeff gershoff, January 18, 2006 at 8:08 am Link to this comment
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I think it is good to recall that Afghanistan never wished to ascend to the global stage in the first place.  Ancient culture, deeply religious, agrarian life, are what are associated with Afghanistan; not democracy or modernity or diversified economy or MTV aspirations.  So, in this sense one finds himself (ironically) in agreement with Bush wishing a receeding back into bucolic, opium growing, clouds of forgetfullness.  However, due to the invasions of first the Soviet Union, and second the United States of America, we have essentially created orphans out of the Afghanis whereas they can neither go back to the past nor go forward into what appears to them a much more horrific future.  I travel frequently to Northern India, the Punjab, Dharamshala, Chandigarh, Delhi, and the way people have turned from openly embracing us as Americans, to the frowns, distrust, and dislike that is now evident is a cold, cold blast of reality (on the street level) of what the Bush regime has done since 9/11.  They have taken a tragedy, and are trying to morph it into armageddon.

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By Michael J. Germain, January 18, 2006 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
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The farce that is American policy in Afghanistan is demonstrating in stark terms that Republicans are always more comfortable dealing with authoritarian warlords than people really attempting to build democracy.  Hamid Karzai, the Mayor of Kabul, is a former CIA agent who has little support outside of the capitol.  Robert Scheer would do us all a huge favor if he could write about the mercenary forces in that country that are bought and paid for by such US companies as Dyncorp, and others.  There are an estimated 20,000 mercenaries in Afghanistan, more than we have troops. 

I know a guy in the 82nd Airborne who was on a sweep in the mountains “looking for Osama” once when they encountered a mercenary patrol led by CIA officers.  The captain leading the Airborne patrol was not allowed to ask what they were doing and why, in fact, the mercs, who are all exSpecial Ops troops cashing in, actually threatened to open fire on our troops when the captain pressed them for details.

It looks to me as though the CIA, and its minions, are once again engaged in drug trafficking and Vietnam style cowboyism.

The scale of criminality that is The Bush Experience is almost to vast to comprehend.  They are nothing less than an organized crime gang.

Perhaps Bush, Rummy, Cheney, and the rest of these fascist pigs could be charged under RICO?

How great would that be!

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