Monday, August 30, 2021. The War Makers fret over Afghanistan and fear citizens might discover the realities of Iraq.
Starting with Afghanistan . . .
Pampered pooch Tony Blair has spent the last weeks in a hissy fit as though Afghanistan were his favorite chew toy and mean old Joe Biden was taking it away. The UK SOCIALIST WORKER offers:
The defeat in Afghanistan is even more devastating for Britain than it is for the US.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs parliament’s foreign affairs select committee, called it Britain’s “worst foreign policy failure since the Suez crisis of 1956.”
This was a defining moment in the collapse of the British Empire. Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal—a hugely important shipping channel effectively controlled by Britain, key to its dominance in the Middle East.
Britain invaded Egypt, along with France, and without the knowledge of the US. US president Dwight Eisenhower was outraged, and feared the outcome of the invasion would threaten its own interests in the Middle East.
It intervened in the United Nations (UN) to demand Britain and France withdraw. It was a humiliation for Britain’s rulers, and the moment they realised they could never act independently of the US again.
Since then, Britain tried to build itself a “special relationship” as the US’s junior partner. British governments thought this relationship would give it influence with the European Union (EU), and that its standing in the EU would give it influence with the US.
It was backed up by massive military spending in the hope that this would give Britain special status as a military power.
Tony Blair relied on this, as much of the evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war revealed.
He sold himself to George Bush as someone who could win support for the war among the EU. He would present Britain to the EU and the UN as a moderating influence, all the while arguing the case for invasion.
Instead, the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were another humiliation for Britain. Its military was defeated by resistance in Basra in Iraq, and Helmand in Afghanistan.
Now the US’s withdrawal exposes just how little influence Britain really has left.
Biden pushed ahead with retreating from Afghanistan, even as many European states wanted to continue the occupation seemingly indefinitely. He ignored them all, including Britain.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said no European country had the power to act independently of the US. Britain’s supposedly close relationship with the US couldn’t convince the US to stay.
The idea that Britain has influence as a bridge between the EU and the US has been shattered. The fact that many of the people pining after permanent war in Afghanistan wail about Britain’s lost influence after Brexit is one reason to celebrate leaving the EU.
A major foreign policy document published by Britain in March said that, after Brexit, Britain’s close support for the US against China would give it special influence.
But now, though Britain clearly depends totally on the US, it has no real influence at all. For everyone who hates Britain’s blood soaked history as an imperial power, that can only be a good thing.
For more on this topic, you can refer to Luke Savage's interview with Richard Seymour for JACOBIN. A sad day for Tony. You could say, "Tony Blair, a lap dog in search of a new lap." COUNTERPUNCH's Jeffrey St. Clair makes that observation and many more including:
+ The American Media in Crisis Mode: People who know nothing about Afghanistan interviewing people who have already demonstrated (with the body counts to prove it) that everything they thought they knew about Afghanistan was dead wrong.
Jeffrey also offers that "if Biden can stand firm as he’s ambushed from all sides, not retreat from his retreat, and finally bring the occupation to an end, he’ll go down in the history books a lot more credibly than the jackals who are assailing him."
Thursday's attack on the airport in Kabul left many dead. Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports that not all the deaths may not have been caused by the bombing:
Thursday’s attack, which killed 13 American soldiers and at least 160 Afghan civilians, has had at least one effect. Despite the bluster by the White House and Pentagon about continuing their mission “undeterred,” evacuations have dwindled to a crawl since the bombing. While 13,400 flew out on Thursday, before and after the bombing, that number fell to 6,800 on Friday and only 2,900 on Saturday. About 1,400 civilians of all nationalities remain at the airport for screening and evacuation.
There were unconfirmed reports Sunday, appearing on the social media site Kabul Lovers, that many of the Afghans killed in Thursday’s terror attack were actually shot when American troops fired into the crowded square outside the gate in order to clear it after the bombing.
The television networks and daily newspapers in the imperialist countries have attributed all the Afghan deaths in the atrocity to the bomber and to confederates who opened fire on the crowd. All were acting at the behest of ISIS-K (Islamic State-Khorasan), according to a statement issued by someone claiming to speak for group, whose origins and very existence are quite murky.
Taliban officials have not suggested that US troops were responsible for any of the deaths Thursday, confining themselves to a pledge to investigate the circumstance of the attack thoroughly.
The likelihood that American troops fired on the crowd of Afghans they were supposedly in Kabul to rescue is reinforced by the events of Sunday. US forces carried out a drone missile strike on an alleged ISIS-K vehicle in Kabul “eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” according a spokesman for the US Central Command.
Reporters on the ground in Kabul said that an entire family of nine people, including six children, was wiped out in this drone attack, only the latest example of indiscriminate warfare by American imperialism against the people of Afghanistan.
At this point, no one knows what took place. It is strange though how the endless yammering on cable TV hasn't explored the possibility above. Or at least, it's strange until you grasp that corporate media is in an uproar over the thought of the US leaving Afghanistan. They are part of the military-industrial complex, after all.
On the media, Anthony Dimaggio (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:
Outside of Democratic and Republican officials’ angling, reporting in the “agenda setting” press has straddled the line between concerns with “fighting terrorism” and interest in maintaining support from U.S. allies. Speaking to both of these concerns, The New York Times reports that:
“The United States and NATO invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by Al Qaeda, harbored by the Taliban. Now that the Taliban are back in power, there are already worries that Afghanistan will again become a breeding ground for Islamist radicalism and terrorism, aided by new technologies and social media.”
CNN echoes this concern with rising extremism, warning in one headline that: “Afghan withdrawal leaves allies to face harsh reality of U.S.’s departure from world stage.” CNN goes further, tying its suspicion of U.S. withdrawal to the language of international law, and reporting that critics of the U.S. worry about “America’s retreat from the world stage” and the United States’ commitment under the U.N. Charter “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end…to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”
There is more than a bit of Orwellian doublethink propaganda in this statement, particularly in the assumption that a continuation of U.S. militarism and war in Afghanistan is vital to promoting “peace” in Central Asia. Of course, Orwellian propaganda is a longstanding feature of U.S. discourse on Afghanistan. For example, when the Obama administration was asked in 2009 why it needed 100,000 troops in the country to combat Al Qaeda when U.S. intelligence estimated that the group had perhaps 100 fighters in the country, the response from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was that the U.S. couldn’t “afford” to allow a Taliban resurgence, for fear that its rise to power might one day provide Al Qaeda or other extremist groups a safe haven in Afghanistan. By this logic, the U.S. must remain committed to a permanent occupation of the country, so long as extremism and terrorism exist in the region, and so long as the Taliban exists and is a threat to taking over the nation. And with this admission, Americans were sold a vision for an Orwellian commitment to infinite war, with the U.S. portrayed – like the government of Oceania in the propaganda from 1984 – as a stabilizing power committed to permanent war in the name of peace.
Effective propaganda commonly relies on elements of truth. And with Afghanistan, that truth relates to the brutality that is likely to follow U.S. withdrawal in the face of the Taliban’s repression. The Taliban is notorious for its suppression of women, its contempt for democracy, its sheltering of religious extremists, and its horrific treatment of ethnic minorities. So it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the group’s rise will have dire consequences for the people of Afghanistan. After 20 years of the Afghan people being stuck between a U.S. client regime with little popular supportand a fundamentalist repressive Taliban movement, there’s no positive endgame that’s likely to emerge as the U.S. withdraws from the country.
As the cable and network airwaves preach war propaganda, Richard Medhurst offers some truth.
On COI #153, Kyle Anzalone updates events in Afghanistan. The Pentagon and State Department are working to remove some privileged Afghans and Americans from Afghanistan. The US claims it has evacuated tens of thousands so far, but it is still unclear how many will be left behind. Despite the speed with which the Afghan government collapsed and ongoing chaos at the airport, the American people have been unpersuaded by a relentless effort by war hawks in the corporate press to turn the public against the withdrawal. New polls show almost two-thirds of Americans support ending the occupation.
They have a video at the link as well.
Meanwhile, Jordan Shilton (WSWS) notes:
In a briefing released Friday that received far less attention than the fate of the comparative handful of people crowded around Kabul airport, the UN reported that up to half a million people could flee the country by the end of 2021 due to a looming food crisis. The UN reported that prior to the Taliban coming to power, half of the population required some form of humanitarian aid and half of all children under five years of age were acutely malnourished.
Since the beginning of 2021, 560,000 people have been registered as internally displaced, adding to the 2.9 million internally displaced persons at the end of 2020. Over 80 percent of those displaced since the beginning of the year are women and children.
Which brings ut to Iraq. The media, led largely by REUTERS, has spent over a week now trying to act as though 'progress' had come to Iraq. Based on? A meaningless get-together in Baghdad on Saturday. As a result of their non-stop coverage of the gabfest, some are e-mailing the public e-mail account (email@example.com) about how we are missing the big story. Oh, no. No, children, we're not.
The big story is not that a bunch of government officials from various countries gathered in Baghdad to iron out . . . nothing. The big story is what a wreck Iraq remains. Had Mustafa al-Kahdimi stuck to his plan of being prime minister for a few months -- long enough to call early elections -- that wouldn't be his fault. But he's the one who decided to extend his inept reign. He's over the government so the government's mistakes are his own.
AFP notes reality:
Iraqi shopkeeper Ahmad Riad is busy again serving customers at a Mosul market four years after the city was destroyed in battles against jihadists, but he still awaits war reparations.
"Life has gradually resumed," said Riad, who runs a shop selling rice, pasta and tins of tomato paste in the Corniche market, along the banks of the Tigris river.
"But we have not received any compensation from the government."
Mosul, the country's second city in Nineveh province, was the last major Iraqi bastion of the Islamic State group's failed "caliphate" between 2014 and 2017.
The city was retaken by the Iraqi army and a US-led coalition after intense bombardment and fighting that left it in ruins.
The market was "devastated" in the battles, Riad said, with shopkeepers using their limited savings to rebuild.
"We are the ones who paid," he said.
Of the 400 stalls that once crammed the market, just a tenth have returned to business, he added.
According to official sources, the cost of reconstruction for Nineveh would top $100 billion, a staggering sum for a country mired in an economic crisis.
It outstrips the total annual budget of oil-rich Iraq, which stands at nearly $90 billion in 2021.
Contrast that with the crap REUTERS has been filing for over a week now -- crap that's often unsigned but who would want to claim credit for that garbage. As Chrissie Hynde once asked, "How much did you get for your soul?"
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday warned of health risks for most Iraqi children as they have no access to safe and drinkable water.
"Nearly 3 out of 5 children in Iraq have no access to safely managed water services," UNICEF said in a statement.
The UN agency said that less than half of all schools in the country have access to basic water.
“In Iraq, the level of water scarcity is alarming, children cannot develop and thrive to their full potential without water,” said Sheema SenGupta, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “It is time to take action on climate change and guarantee access to safe water for every child.”
That's not a successful government. Iraq is a failed-state, a corrupt one. The efforts to whitewash it have taken place for decades but have taken on a new urgency with events in Afghanistan. The continued occupation of Iraq is being reheated and resold as something fresh and new.
The following sites updated over the weekend: