U.S. bombing of Afghanistan brings misery and upheaval to entire region

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The Taliban has been defeated — and yet, as of this writing, millions of displaced, destitute Afghan refugees are wary of returning home. And no wonder.

The U.S. onslaught has turned what was already a land battered and scarred into a place of nearly complete devastation. In addition to human casualties, roads, homes, radio stations and at least one hospital have been destroyed. Humanitarian assistance has dropped by more than half because bombs and land mines make delivery impossible.

And the carnage is not over, as U.S. missiles continue to drop, the new controlling factions battle among themselves, and well-armed Taliban fighters still pose the threat of resistance.

Moreover, the Northern Alliance victors have a track record as bloody as that of the Taliban, while the appointed head of Afghanistan’s new interim government is a well-qualified stooge for the U.S.

U.S. sets horrors in motion. Secret U.S. intervention more than 20 years ago is directly responsible for the swamp of human suffering in Afghanistan today.

Beginning in 1979, under first Carter and then Reagan, the U.S. covertly sent approximately five billion dollars to the mujahedin, Islamic fundamentalist fighters from whom the Taliban sprang. Why? To join with Pakistan in inciting reactionary rebellion against the Soviet-backed secular regime that had taken power in 1978, threatening Western interests.

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 and defeat of the pro-socialist government in 1992, the Northern Alliance, a conflict-ridden coalition of tribal leaders, took control.

Through vicious repression, they stripped women of the most basic human rights, reversing all of the substantial gains made under the pro-Soviet regime. Like the Taliban who replaced them four years later, they stoned “adulteresses,” burned books, slaughtered political and ethnic rivals, and beheaded and dismembered Afghan women, leftists, and dissident workers as “infidels.”

Now these same U.S.-approved cutthroats of the Northern Alliance, joined by some of Afghanistan’s other tribal leaders, are to rule the country once again. Under a “broad-based” interim government cobbled together in negotiations arranged by the U.N. and U.S., the new prime minister will be Hamid Karzai.

An India-educated, English-speaking Pashtun tribal aristocrat, Karzai served as deputy foreign minister during Northern Alliance control of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, but then briefly supported the Taliban. One thing has been consistent: his warm relationship with the U.S., where his brothers are in the restaurant business.

Volcano ready to erupt. Just as U.S. victory over the Taliban will not produce liberation in Afghanistan, neither will it produce more security and peace in the world as a whole. Instead, the U.S. is intensifying the desperate anger against imperialist domination that engenders terrorism and is causing sharpened conflict in an area that is already wildly unstable.

Just two days after the September 11 attacks in the U.S., Israel took advantage of Washington’s declaration of a war on terror to launch an unrestrained military assault on the Palestinians, the beginning of a spiral of Israeli violence and terrorist retaliation that seems at this point truly out of control.

India, meanwhile, broke a 10-month ceasefire in October and began shelling Pakistani positions in Kashmir, a mostly Muslim territory claimed by both India and Pakistan — each of whom now belongs to the nuclear-arms club. India also used the justification of combatting terrorism.

And, of course, from the start of Bush’s crusade, he has made it very clear that the war won’t stop at Afghanistan: Iraq and Somalia are the targets most likely to be hit next.

Finally, and chillingly, there has been serious talk in the U.S. about using nuclear weapons in this war — not only from people in the White House, but from legislators as well.

No quick fix, but there is a way out. In the end, though, what may turn out to be most significant about the one-sided U.S. war against Afghanistan is this: throughout the Middle East, northern Africa, and southern and central Asia, it is deepening the rifts between millions of workers and peasants and their own governments.

People who live under regimes like those in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan despise their rulers because of their complicity with U.S. crimes in the region and their repressiveness and corruption. Since the bombing began, strikes or antiwar protests have taken place in countries including Pakistan, India, Iran, and the former Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan, and class tensions are sharpening.

Terrorists don’t bring revolutionary change; working classes do. In ravaged Afghanistan, a working class is practically nonexistent. But that is not the case in Pakistan, India, Iran, Egypt, Algeria, and numerous other countries in the broad region, where workers have enough power to mount challenges both to their own ruling class and to the bullies from abroad. Just as the agony that Afghanistan experiences is a problem of more than its own, so too will be the solution.

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