by Umair Khan
War is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of.
|While most Americans have turned against the Iraq War, many of them still think that the war on Afghanistan was morally and legally justified. Their rationale is that the United States was simply defending itself by attacking Afghanistan and retaliating against those who had conspired to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Of course, the last thing on people’s mind was that the 9/11 perpetrators themselves were retaliating for the bad things that the U.S. government had long been doing to people in the Middle East.
There are many questions to ask about the war in Afghanistan. One that has been widely asked is whether it will turn out to be “Obama’s Vietnam.”. This question implies another: Is this war winnable, or is it destined to be a quagmire, like Vietnam? These questions are motivated in part by the widespread agreement that the Afghan government, under Hamid Karzai, is at least as corrupt and incompetent as the government the United States tried to prop up in South Vietnam for 20 years.
For example, there was the regime-change operation in Iran in 1953, where the CIA successfully ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with the shah of Iran, whose brutal dictatorship ultimately culminated in the Iranian revolution in 1979. Not surprisingly, Iranians are still angry about that U.S.-imposed regime change.
The war in Afghanistan is especially taxing for this theory. The Afghanistan war is now well into its eleventh year—longer than America’s involvement in last century’s two world wars combined. The original justification has been overtaken by events, and some operations—such as airstrikes killing a disproportionate number of civilians—have made it difficult to classify Afghanistan as a just war.
Recall that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, there was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and empathy all over the world for the United States. If U.S. officials had exercised wisdom, instead of reacting in a knee-jerk military fashion, they could have capitalized on those positive feelings by isolating bin Laden and the rest of his gang.
If President Bush had announced to the world that the United States would not kill innocent people in the quest to bring bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda to justice, the entire world would have remained sympathetic to the United States. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda would have been isolated, not knowing who would turn them in to the authorities. Compare that to the situation in the world today, where countless ordinary people all over the world are filled with rage over the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the torture and sex-abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. Moreover, even U.S. intelligence agencies are admitting that the continuous killings of Afghanis and Iraqis continue to provide al-Qaeda with a steady stream of recruits.
Did the United States have the legal and moral right to invade Afghanistan upon the Taliban’s refusal to turn bin Laden over to the United States? Many Americans would undoubtedly respond, “Yes, absolutely. When a country experiences a terrorist attack, it has the legal and moral right to attack and invade a sovereign and independent country that refuses to comply with an unconditional demand to give up the suspected perpetrators.”
Well, if that’s true then how would such proponents respond if, say, Venezuela attacked the United States for harboring terrorists? Would the proponents say, “I’m going to fight on the side of Venezuela because in the war on terror a country has the right to attack countries that are harboring terrorists”? Not likely.
Yet the U.S. response to Venezuela’s extradition of a suspected terrorist namedLuis Posada Cariles, a former CIA operative, not only provides a good example of the hypocrisy of the U.S. government’s “war on terror,” it also shows how such a war leads inexorably toward endless international conflict and discord. After all, ask yourself, Can a world in which each country has the right to wage a war on terror under the principles followed by the U.S. government possibly be harmonious?
Posada is a prime suspect in the terrorist bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner whose flight originated in Venezuela in 1976. The plane crashed, killing 73 people, including several young members of a Cuban sports team.
Obviously, the only reason that the U.S. government is getting away with its “war on terror,” including regime-change operations against Third World countries and military wars of aggression on sovereign and independent nations, is that it has overwhelming military strength, especially compared with Third World countries. In the U.S. government’s war on terror, might makes right. But as the U.S. empire becomes increasingly overstretched by waging such a war, the American people are going to inevitably discover what lies at the end of that road: death, destruction, conflict, discord, terrorism, torture, rendition, and infringements on liberty.
One of the things we’ve learned, I think, is that even when you fight an unnecessary war, as I think this one was — and unnecessary wars are also unjust wars — even when you fight a war like that you acquire responsibilities in its course, so that when you start thinking about how to get out, as we are now doing, you have to make sure that you do it in ways that don’t put people needlessly at risk and in ways that recognize responsibilities that you have in.