The Guardian on the Failure of the West’s Occupation of Afghanistan

Simon Jenkins, one of the columnists at the Groan, has written a very interesting piece about the end of the west’s occupation of Afghanistan and the government it has protected. Jenkins begins his piece by stating that the invasion itself was absolutely unnecessary.

“The US had no need to invade Afghanistan. The country was never a “terrorist state” like Libya or Iran. It was not at war with the US; indeed the US had aided its rise to power against the Russians in 1996. The Taliban had hosted Osama bin Laden in his mountain lair through his friendship with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. At an immediate post-9/11 “loya jirga” in the southern city of Kandahar, younger leaders pressed the mullah to expel Bin Laden. Pakistan would probably have forced his surrender sooner or later. After the 2001 invasion the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanded that George Bush “punish and get out”.

Yet neither Bush nor Tony Blair listened. Instead they experienced a rush of blood to the head. They commandeered Nato, which had no dog in the fight, and began “nation building”, as if nations were made of Lego. It would be an age, said the political scientist Joseph Nye, of the “velvet hegemon”. For reasons never fully explained, Blair declared a “doctrine of international community” and pleaded for Britain to be in the first bombing run over Kabul. He then sent Clare Short as the minister for international development to stop the Afghans growing poppies. Afghan poppy production soared to an all-time high, spreading from six to 28 provinces, probably Britain’s most successful farm product of all time. Opium floated the Taliban back to power.”

He goes on to describe the totally misguided optimism among the western forces when he visited the country in 2006, when he was told that the Taliban were all but defeated. Seven years later the Taliban had defeated us, and have now gone on to defeat the Americans. As a result, the soldiers, interpreters, academics, journalists and aid workers are seeing friends threatened and killed. The occupation has been colossally expensive. The Americans have supposedly spent a trillion dollars. It has cost Britain £37 billion.

He concludes that this demonstrates the complete failure of imperialism, and that the proper thing to do now is to establish good relations with the new regime in Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan and Iran. Even though Boris still wants to play at Britain being a great imperial power.

“How many times must it be drummed into British heads that the British empire is over? It is dead, finished, outdated, not to be repeated. Yet Boris Johnson has just sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea. Britain has no need, let alone right, to rule other countries, to “make the world a better place”. No soldier need die for it, let alone 454 British soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. The best Britain can now do is establish good relations with a new regime in Afghanistan – in liaison with Kabul’s neighbours Pakistan and Iran – to protect at least some of the good it has attempted to do this past 20 years. The world is not threatening Britain. Terrorism does not need state sponsors, nor will it be ended by state conquest.”

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/it-has-taken-20-years-to-prove-the-invasion-of-afghanistan-was-totally-unnecessary/ar-AANnrpv?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

It’s a good article, but I’d dispute Jenkin’s assumption on the continuing popularity of imperialism amongst the British public. When Blair invaded Iraq a few years later, two million people in Britain marched in protest. I think it was the biggest public protest ever at the time in Britain. I even recall that the Spectator and various Tory politicos were against the invasion, even though Niall Ferguson had previously raved about the new western imperialism in Afghanistan in the pages of the Heil. The British public weren’t given a choice about either invasion. The invasion of Afghanistan was sold to Britain and America as the justified reprisal for 9/11. The west wasn’t there to occupy the country, but to transform it into a modern, democratic state governed by western notions of human rights. Ditto with Iraq. It seems to me to have been mainly the opponents of these ventures, who recognised what this was really about and described it as such. There was an article in the conspiracy magazine, Lobster, calling Blair a ‘Gladstonian imperialist’ for example. I think some Guardian or Independent journos also described it as a kind of imperialism, but were also in favour of it because of New Labour support for the neo-con agenda. But there was supposed to be a difference between this new kind of imperialism and the old sort. Britain and America were to act as the world’s policemen, preventing tyrannical governments from engaging in genocide and other human rights atrocities, just as the US had intervened in the war in Yugoslavia and there had been calls for western intervention during the genocide in Rwanda. This was supposed to be very different from the conquests, occupations and annexations that had occurred in previous centuries. This means that many Brits probably didn’t see the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as imperialist.

But both were. And the real reasons were deliberately kept hidden from the British and American public. I’ve said before that the real reason for the Afghanistan invasion was the construction of a strategically important oil pipeline that the Taliban government had refused to build in collaboration with the US. William Blum, the late veteran critic of US imperialism, discusses this in some of his books, as does Michael Moore, the ‘capped crusader’, in his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. The Iraq invasion was intended to acquire the country’s oil industry and reserves for the American and Saudi oil companies, and the country’s state enterprises for American multinationals. The neo-Cons also had the dream of turning Iraq into the kind of low tax, free trade economy they wanted for America. They lowered import tariffs, so that immediately the rest of the world dumped their excess products in Iraq. Iraqi business couldn’t compete, there was a wave of bankruptcies and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. All this is described by Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse.

I also wonder if the Guardian really wants the British public to know how Blair lied to them. As their demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters showed, the Groan is thoroughly Blairite. One of the sources Private Eye used for its hit pieces on Corbyn and the anti-Semitism smears, according to the redoubtable Tony Greenstein, was a named Groaniad hack. The newspaper also wants to reassure the public that conspiracy theories are just fantasies and that governments, big business and other political actors don’t really engage in plots and secret plans. Hence David Aaronovitch has appeared several times in its pages to tell its readers that they don’t exist. I might, however, be wrong about this, and that Aaronovitch has published his views dismissing conspiracy theories in the Independent. Either way, what passes for the British left wing press has been extremely reluctant to admit that there was any kind of ulterior motive behind the invasions of these two countries.

But there was. The primary goal was to conquer them for the oil industry and big business. The result has been 20 years of war and chaos, and in the case of Iraq, the destruction of a whole country. The new imperialism of the neo-Conservatives has been a costly, bloody failure. It’s high time it was abandoned.

But I’m afraid that the same people who pushed these wars are still around and regrouping, as the speakers at an online left-wing Labour party rally against imperialism and colonialism described several months ago. I’m afraid they’ll come back, and push for another middle eastern war, most likely against Iran. All to protect Israel and liberate its people from the Islamic theocracy, of course.

And absolutely nothing to do with revenge for the Islamic revolution and the country’s nationalisation of its oil industry.

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4 Responses to “The Guardian on the Failure of the West’s Occupation of Afghanistan”

  1. trev Says:

    Yes there are a lot of different factors at play, the oil, the opium, Imperialism, but the notion of protecting the world, of uplifting the world, and installing Democracy, is all part of the New World Order of which both Britain and primarily the USA are a part. The value of Opium shouldn’t be under-estimated though, I recall it being said many years ago that the illicit Billions from the opium trade is what props up Wall St. British & US forces might have been there in part to protect the international trade in opium, although I don’t think we still force anyone to exchange it for tea these days but other commodities could be involved. There was also the value of various mineral ores that Afghanistan is said to be rich in. Either way, there are valuable resources to exploit and control, and a clash of dubious ideologies, but personally I believe the world will be a better place, and the middle east safer, without regimes such as the Taliban.

    • beastrabban Says:

      I don’t know about the opium, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. The Reagan government during the Iran-Contra affair allowed the Fascist death squads they supported in South America to export cocaine into the US, and I think the CIA was flying heroine into America during Vietnam to fund some of the hill tribes supporting the US. As for the middle east being better off without regimes like the Taliban, that’s undoubtedly true. Apart from being brutal and bloodthirsty, they’re also very unstable. I can remember reading somewhere that there have been nine attempts to overthrow the Saudi government, including one by Islamists in the 1970s which occupied the main mosque.

  2. Joshx45 Says:

    If you want to understand Tony Blair listen to Ellsworth here.

  3. Dax and Tom Says:

    Hi there. Allow us to add some texture.

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