Popular Pressure is the Only Way Now

October 23, 2009 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

George W Bush decided in September 2001 that the tragedy of the World Trade Centre could be avenged by an attack on Afghanistan and prepared for war.

Never one to be outdone in the hyperbole stakes, Tony Blair quickly offered a British “blood price.” The UN was stirred into action on the dubious claims that to attack Afghanistan was an act of self-defence and we duly went to the battlefront.

Most parliaments of the many participating countries acquiesced in this. They were equally supine when a whole raft of anti-terror laws aping the US Homeland Security Act were introduced.

That was eight years ago – longer than the second world war.

Today, when backed into a corner Brown and other ministers fall back on the argument that this near decade of conflict has our streets safer.

However few would consider themselves safer since 2001. Most would accept that the continuing military presence in Afghanistan and the disaster in Iraq have made their lives far more precarious.

And life for Afghans eight years on from the invasion remains desperate. The Afghan people have known little peace in almost 30 years and their country is under occupation, covered in land mines. The decades of war have created thousands of injured and disabled victims.

Production of poppies for drugs meanwhile is at a record high and suggests that either corruption or fear of the consequences mean no action has been taken to stem drug production.

The option of converting such products into the painkiller dia-morphine, of which there is a world shortage, has been ignored.

Beyond that, widespread corruption by officials and the consequent loss of enormous sums of western aid to them beggars the question of the whole strategy over the past eight years.

In the land of the free however the pressures to change this failing strategy are all coming from the wrong direction.

US President Barack Obama was himself elected partly because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and always asserted that the “real” battle was in Afghanistan.

Since then he has come under a lot of pressure from hawks in his administration, becoming a prisoner of his own rhetoric on the subject.

His subordinate General McCrystal has done what his many very political predecessors have done by making his demands for more money and more troops public.

In response Obama has opted for a lengthy policy evaluation in which the debate is around troop numbers and whether another 40,000 will suffice.

This macabre debate on sending young soldiers to kill, or be killed, will not end with the numbers game.

As with the Vietnam war, a troop increase will heighten tensions and the insatiable demands for more troops will be hard to resist for any president, once set on the course of an elusive “victory.”

With this in mind, on Saturday the Stop the War Coalition, together with CND and the British Muslim Initiative, are holding the first demonstration concentrating on Afghanistan since 2001.

The aim of the protest is very obviously to put pressure on British politicians to recognise the huge error of current Afghanistan policy, but there is another dimension to the London demonstration.

Around the world people will see the growing opposition being organised in Britain and can themselves be inspired to help end the war – which is already on a precarious footing.

The news that Afghanistan President Karzai will face a run-off election has not been recieved with much good grace. That widespread fraud was discovered and a partial recount demanded must call the whole election into question.

Its impact on the traditional arguments used to justify the conflict has been powerful – after all the West was supposed to be bringing democracy to the region when it invaded in 2001.

And aside from the dubious electoral practices there are other even more serious concerns.

While we are tragically all too aware of the deaths of 237 British soldiers, there is much less evidence regarding the number of Afghan dead.

Bar sporadic reports of weddings destroyed and tankers bombed the true figure is unknown and probably not recorded.

The war has long since spun out of control. It has spread over into Pakistan and it has not acknowledged the unsettled demands of the Pashto people dating back to British India and partition.

The Taliban actions in Pakistan have provoked a huge reaction by the military, and enormous numbers of people displaced and forced into internal exile. The political consequences of this are huge as instability and more western aid follow.

If this continues the demands for western forces to go into Pakistan will grow. What then is the reaction of India? Or China?

Is it not time to realise the need for a foreign policy based on something better than the kneejerk reaction of George Bush, 10 years ago?

The demonstration will meet at Hyde Park at 12 noon on October 24.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star newspaper.

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This post was written by Jeremy Corbyn

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