Seven Years in Afghanistan: From “War on Terror” to “War of Terror”

This war in Afghanistan’s not about avenging the 9-11 attacks or preventing new ones. It’s about killing local fighters, who fight not to create some “Emirate” from Indonesia to Spain or establish a base of operations against America as George W. Bush (shamelessly fear-mongering and exploiting Islamophobia) would have you believe. They fight to rid Afghanistan of unwelcome foreigners from Christian-majority countries that always seem to be attacking faithful Muslims for no good reason. Countries where, they’re told by their mullahs, cartoonists mock the Prophet and the Holy Qur’an. They fight to avenge the civilian victims—the wedding party celebrants, the madrassa students—of bombing attacks. In August a U.S. air strike in Herat killed 90, mostly women and children.??The guerrillas’ numbers seem to grow even as the U.S. and NATO announce more and more impressive Taliban casualty figures. They are not all veterans of the Mujahadeen struggle against the pro-Soviet regime of the 1980s. Some are too young to recall it; the median age in Afghanistan is 18. The new Taliban is largely the creation of 2001 invasion and the bombing campaign ever since. But President Bush sees them as terrorists enraged by the blessings of occupation, such as improved health care, education and transportation (the same things the Soviets said they were bringing in the 1980s). “Killers,” Bush declares, “can’t stand this progress.”

Today as this war enters its seventh year, there are 53,000 foreign troops including 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, backing up what is supposed to be a democratically-elected regime and training its military forces. The Afghan National Army is 76,000-strong and well-equipped with billions of dollars’ worth of M-16s, Humvees, jeeps and mortars. It has NATO behind it. Why can it not defeat a guerrilla army dependent on the drug trade and international black market in weapons? Why are there plans to vastly expand the Army in the next few years? Why must U.S. officials predict a presence of the “International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF) until at least 2014?

Maybe the effort’s not succeeding because the foreign forces do not understand the first thing about the society they’ve invaded, including the natural inclination of the people to want them out of their country. Maybe it’s not succeeding because the Taliban, however unpopular their religious fanaticism, in key areas commands greater respect from the masses than those who’ve signed on to the U.S. payroll. Maybe it’s not succeeding because in Afghanistan (like Iraq) scared soldier-kids shoot up civilians in a country they see as enemy, alien territory, inhabited by people whose languages and culture they don’t understand. A people whose lives don’t seem as precious as western ones, in a country the foreign soldiers don’t want to and shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s not succeeding because the Afghan Army it’s trying to create consists of people with conflicting loyalties who meet with the contempt of family and friends because they work with the invaders.

What began as a “War on Terror” with waves of bombing attacks on Kandahar and Kabul October 7, 2001 has long since become a War of Terror, inflicted on the peoples of Southwest Asia, generating and strengthening resistance movements (“insurgencies”), enraging local allies and even alienating regimes of Washington’s own creation. The Canadians and Europeans have long since tired of it. So have the American people, despite the failure of the corporate media to expose the Big Lies that Cheney and Bush continue to promote in order to justify their Terror War.

Despite the popular war-weariness, both presidential candidates while praising the surge in Iraq unquestionably support the expanding war in Afghanistan. The attack on Afghanistan, used by the neocons as the bridge to an occupied Iraq, has committed the entire political class to an impossible project. Barack Obama talks tough about strikes in Pakistan to shore up the Afghan effort. Once the hope of a wing of the anti-war movement, the senator from Illinois has shown himself as much a spokesman for imperialism as McCain or any other mainstream politician. Seven years down the road, there’s no end in sight. No hope except for the “fool’s hope” that public opinion in the imperialist countries, plus the inevitable resistance of the Afghans to foreign control, plus the military judgment that the war is not winnable will bring this “good war” to an end. (Counterpunch/posted by Bulatlat)

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.?He can be reached at:

Share This Post