Keith Parkins | 15.12.2008 15:22 | Terror War
During his recent visit to Afghanistan, Gordon Brown made incredible crass comments on the death of British soldiers at the hands of a teenage suicide bomber.
To criticise Brown is in no way to denigrate the death of the solders. Every loss of life is to be mourned, be it British or Afghan.
With his comments Brown demonstrated both hypocrisy and an appalling degree of ignorance of Afghanistan.
It is the British Government that sends the British Army into Afghanistan under-resourced and ill-equipped for the task in hand.
What does Brown know of the teenage suicide bomber, of his circumstances, of his family? I do not know, and I doubt that Brown does either.
Every village that is destroyed, every family member killed, causes more Afghans to take up arms against those occupying their country.
Brown spoke of 'cowardice'. Is it not cowardice to launch missile attacks on unarmed, defenceless villagers from unmanned drones?
29 December 2001, a wedding party was being held. By morning nothing was left but rags of clothes, strips of flesh hanging from fences. The Americans struck at 3am, an air strike that lasted for two hours. Fifty-two people were killed, seventeen men, ten women, and twenty-five children. Women and children running towards a dried out pond were mercilessly gunned down. One elderly man who lost seven relatives, told UN investigators that forty-eight people were still missing. The excuse from the Americans for this cowardly attack was that two Taliban commanders were part of the wedding party. A claim local people denied.
Midday 7 October 2001, a house was destroyed with a 500 lb bomb, a precision Mk82 dropped from an American F-16. The son and his mother survived. The mother was away visiting relatives, the son survived shrapnel wounds. The Taliban gave her $400 which paid for the medical treatment for her son. As compensation the Americans gave her $15, less than two dollars for each member of her family killed.
0745 21 October 2001, a headmaster had just finished eating his breakfast and had gone outside to chat with a friend. His house disappeared in a fireball, killing all his family and some relatives. Another 500 lb 'precision' bomb dropped by an American F-16.
Attacks like this are commonplace, so commonplace that they do not merit a mention in the Western mainstream media, let alone a thought from Brown. When they are reported, it is always initially denied, then when confirmed, put down as an attack on 'terrorists', 'the fog of war', or 'collateral damage'.
As we see from a report of BBC news (More Afghan children die in raids, 10 December 2003):
'The US military in Afghanistan has revealed that six children died in a raid on suspected militants ... News of the deaths came after the US apologised for killing children in a separate attack in the neighbouring province ... However, the US warned it would not be deterred by civilian casualties. A US spokesman said [the dead children] were partly to blame for being at a site used by militants.'
Afghans, especially children, lose limbs, sometimes their lives, when they pick up cluster bombs, cunningly disguised as US food parcels. Can they not read the warning posters? Well actually no, most cannot read.
The mujahedin was a creation of the west, the child of the CIA, MI6 and the Pakistani ISI. The 'teaching' material supplied is still used in the madrases.
The US was only too happy to deal with the Taliban when they thought they had a deal for an oil and gas pipeline to pass through Afghanistan. Leaders of the Taliban were invited to Texas to be wined and dined by Unocal. The Taliban would get 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet pumped through the multi-billion dollar pipeline.
When it appeared that the Taliban were unable to deliver, 9/11 gave the pretext to invade Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was placed under house arrest. The Taliban offered to hand him over, if the Americans could provide evidence of his complicity. Afghan warlords were bribed by the CIA with millions of dollars to stop fighting each other, to attack instead the Taliban. Up until then the US was paying the salaries of Taliban officials.
The warlords that formed the Northern Alliance that ousted the Taliban are just another side of the same coin. Yes, there was brutal oppression under the Taliban, but at least it was safe to travel the country, women and children were safe. Now there is the same level of oppression, only it is not safe to travel the country, even for Hamid Karzai, with his phalanx of US Special Forces bodyguards, his writ does not extend beyond Kabul (and some would say it does not travel that far), women and children are routinely raped.
The Taliban eliminated the growing of opium poppies. The Americans granted the Northern Alliance the concession to grow opium poppies. Corruption is now rife in Afghanistan. The occupying foces are protecting a corrupt regime.
A conservative estimate is that between thirteen hundred and eight thousand civilians and a further twenty thousand as an indirect consequence lost their lives in the initial attack and invasion of Afghanistan.
People are disappeared. A taxi driver stopped at a checkpoint to inquire after a fellow taxi driver who had disappeared. He too disappeared.
Bounties are offered, people picked up off the streets. Unlike the First Gulf War, there is no initial screening by military tribunals.
Prisoners are held at the Bagram base built by the Soviets, where they are hooded and shackled, shipped out to Guantanamo Bay or to a third country where they can be tortured.
January 2002, the international community pledged $4.5 billion to rebuild Afghanistan, less than half the $10 billion spent on demolishing the country. Very little of that money has been seen, and what is seen goes to international operators in the country.
There are eleven thousand international agencies and NGOs operating in Afghanistan, many of their staff get ten thousand dollars a month. To keep just one official in the country for a year the UN spends two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
A principal of a bombed out school gets thirty-eight dollars a month.
Gordan Brown then went on to Pakistan where he harangued his hosts for training terrorists. It is true, Muslim fundamentalists are trained in Pakistan. The tribal areas are ungovernable, the tribal people straddle the border, to them there is no border.
Jihadists in Pakistan is a minor irritant, nothing more. The main problems are malnutrition, poverty and corruption. The training material used in the madrases is that which the US provided for the mujahedin.
Brown needs to get his own house in order. Muslim fundamentalists are given free reign, the disaffected youths are self brainwashed, the main stimulus is British foreign policy.
References and background
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth, Olive Branch Press, 2005
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The London Bombings, Duckworth, 2006
Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Verso, 2003
Tariq Ali, The Duel, Simon & Schuster, 2008
John-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, Forbidden Truth, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002
Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, HarperCollins, 1997
Noam Chomsky, 9-11, Seven Stories Press, 2001
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony and Survival, Hamish Hamilton, 2003
Noam Chomsky, Failed States, Metropolitan Books, 2006
John K Cooley, Unholy Wars, Pluto Press, 1999
Frederick Forsyth, The Afghan, Bantam Press, 2006
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 2004
Sean O'Neill and Daniel McGrory, The Suicide Factory, Harper Perennial, 2006
Pact targets Pakistan terror link, BBC on-line, 14 December 2008
Keith Parkins, Oil and Turkey, Indymedia UK, 31 August 2002
Keith Parkins, Pipeline politics, Indymedia UK, 11 August 2003
Keith Parkins, Pipeline politics, Indymedia UK, 21 August 2003
Melanie Phillips, Londonistan, Gibson Square, 2006
John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World, Verso, 2002
John Pilger, Freedom Next Time, Bantam Press, 2006
PM pays tribute to dead marines, BBC news on-line, 13 December 2008
Milan Rai, 7/7: The London Bombings and the Iraq War, Pluto Press, 2006
Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Yale University Press, 2001
Asne Seierstad, The Bookseller of Kabul, Virago, 2002
Andy Worthington, The Guantanamo Files, Pluto Press, 2007