Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, January 18, 2010

When Will They Ever Learn, When Will They Ever Learn?

This conference gives me pause for thought in all kinds of ways.

First of all, it was originally intended to be the first conference on Afghanistan's future to be held in the country itself. Yes, well, we can see how that turned out: the international bigwigs, not wishing to wind up a little on the dead side, felt London would be safer. (You hear that, Melanie Phillips? London isn't yet as dangerous as Kabul!)

Also, a conference on "the further progress on the Petersberg agreement from 2001 on the democratization of Afghanistan after the ousting of the Taliban regime" sort of implies that the Taliban regime has been ousted rather than simply driven underground as a resistance movement. And let's be clear, the Taliban are alive and well and living in Helmand and a dozen other bits of Afghanistan. They're being supported by the locals. To an extent that's clearly because of intimidation, though let's not knock intimidation if it works, hey? But there's also - and far beyond any appeals to perversions of Islam - the sense that the Taliban may be bloodthirsty nutters, but they're bloodthirsty Afghan nutters. That doesn't require the British and Americans to do anything incredibly crass (in the way that in Iraq they so mishandled the reconstruction of the country that even people who had been tortured by Saddam ended up pining for the days before the invasion). It's simply that they're foreign, and the Afghans don't do foreign unless it's dead foreign. They saw off the might of the USSR who were right next door. They saw off Alexander the Great, for fuck's sake. They have what the British cops would call "previous": they know they can sit it out and win. They don't need faith in Allah or a belief (however mythical) in umpteen virgins as their reward when they die in battle. All they need is to know that they're Afghans, and Afghans never stay invaded for very long.

Mind you, we don't make it easy for ourselves. Take this aim of the forthcoming conference: "within six months, President Karzai to have a "clear plan" for police training, including dealing with corruption" . That would be the Mohammed Karzai who is President because he rigged the last election, and who is a byword for corruption even by Asian standards. Even the "government" the British and Americans installed in Iraq is less corrupt than Karzai's, though it is spared the necessity of rigging elections by the fact that the US and UK have helpfully banned anyone with any connection to the pre-invasion government from standing for election at all. (Yes, we have brought democracy to Iraq, if by democracy you mean the freedom to vote for whoever your conquerors select to rule you.) It is surely fortunate that most Afghans (unlike most of Saddam's Iraqis) are illiterate and hence unaware of the kind of democracy that we surely aspire to for them as well.

To be succinct: there is no way for an invader to win a military campaign in Afghanistan, but a thousand ways to lose one. The only question is - apologies, Mr Zimmermann - how many deaths will it take till we know that too many people have died? Or to put it another way, how many soldiers (and civilians) have to die in pursuit of the phoney "War On Terror" before we can see it as the fruitloop fantasy of imperial domination (ake "regime change") that it always was?

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