Lead article from the January-February 2015issue of News & Letters
The obscenity of George W. Bush’s U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, on the pretext of avenging Sept. 11 by unseating the Taliban rulers for sheltering al Qaeda leaders, has been matched by the obscenity of Obama extending that war to an arbitrary end date more than 13 years later. Yet even the formal end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 was just in time for post-war wars to begin in Afghanistan itself—where 13,500 U.S. and allied combat troops remain although the “end” of combat had been declared—as well as in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen.
U.S. WARS STOKE TERRORISM
That those wars have not stopped terrorism but stoked it was seen in the events in Paris and the million who marched there on Jan. 11 against the murder of those gunned down by French terrorists. They marched, not because of the world leaders gathered to look like they were at the front of the crowd but in spite of their hypocrisy, and to denounce that week’s massacres (see “European racism and economic decay“).
Terrorists Cherif and Said Kouachi, while they were at large, bragged to the media that they had been trained and financed by al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. The killing of Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabet outside the Charlie Hebdo offices prompted his mourners to add the slogan “Je suis Ahmed” to the ever-present “Je suis Charlie.” His killing was akin to al Qaeda’s bombing in Sana’a that killed at least 37 on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack, or the al Qaeda killing of at least 49 Shia Houthi rebels in Sana’a on Dec. 31.
Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula is not the only group which has grown and recruited heavily, exploiting rage in the Muslim world at the U.S. presence in the Middle East. Many now compete with the U.S. in expanding the body count of mostly Muslims in the region and in trying to kill the idea of freedom. Despite such formidable obstacles, Arab Spring revolutions have sprung up again and again in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.
Amedy Coulibaly, who killed people at the Kosher market, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State which has been driven back from its control of Kobane by determined Kurdish fighters aided by U.S. air strikes. Nevertheless, it continues its bloody sway over a large swath of Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile Assad, whose regime is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths among Syrians, has continued his counter-revolution, with U.S. complicity, by dropping barrel bombs on rebels and civilians in areas like Aleppo.
TALIBAN STILL IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
Despite the Taliban having originally taken power in Afghanistan under the patronage of Pakistani security forces, the Taliban in northwest Pakistan on Dec. 16 killed 150 children and school personnel at the Army Public School in Peshawar. Taliban spokesmen justified the slaughter as retaliation for the army’s current campaign against their bases.
In 2008 Barack Obama had secured the nomination for President thanks to his stance against Bush-Cheney’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. But Obama, trying to avoid the right wing blaming him for losing Bush’s war, promised to “be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.” This inexorably led to Obama’s escalation of “the good war” in Afghanistan and his refusal to cut short by a single day Bush’s planned campaign in Iraq.
With U.S. troops diminished in Afghanistan but far from departed, President Ghani has initiated extensive maneuvers. He has met with the head of Pakistan intelligence, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Akhtar. Ghani also offered cabinet positions to the Taliban, and governorships of three southern provinces. The Taliban is currently not part of the ruling coalition only because it refused Ghani’s offer.
Rather than removing an oppressor, the U.S. invasion added layers of obstruction to the liberation of the Afghan people. George W. Bush failed to gain the control of the Middle East that he and his cabal expected troops and bombs to bring. His legacy instead is the recruitment opportunities he has provided for the Islamic State and other anti-American and anti-revolutionary groups, and forging a bipartisan U.S. consensus for permanent war, continued by Obama.