Friday, December 3, 2010

Republican madness on Afghanistan

Even as some of the latest Wikileaked documents reveal the full extent of distrust in Karzai and his government in Afghanistan, Senator Lindsey Graham has suggested that the U.S. should retain permanent airbases in that country to “make sure [Afghanistan] never goes back to the Taliban”.

This beggars belief, and would confirm the impression that most Afghans must have of the U.S. as an imperial occupying force. It shows the degree to which Graham and many of his Congressional colleagues are in denial about the damage that U.S. military intervention does. The refusal to see a connection between ‘terrorist’ threats to the U.S. and the violence that we perpetrate in the Middle East and South Asia is extraordinary, and will continue to haunt us for years to come so long as Graham and his party continue to thump the war drums with such sickening abandon, and Obama keeps his head buried in the sand.

If our ultimate goal is to get Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet, it is unclear why we would need a military presence there in perpetuity. And if Graham really believes that we should listen to the military—who have suggested that negotiations with the Taliban should begin to happen—then how can he preclude the possibility of the Taliban returning to government in some way? If we want an autonomous Afghanistan, we can’t also presume to dictate the terms of political association within that country. Graham’s approach is not only guaranteed to foster the kind of festering resentment of the U.S. that led to the rise of Osama bin Laden, but is completely contradictory.

But it also reaffirms the commitment on the part of the far Right to the doctrine of American exceptionalism. This is a doctrine, we should remember, which is imperial in its ambitions for dominance, and which seeks to force a political system (which Republicans are incessantly decrying as broken and corrupt) upon people around the world.

Informal empire, after all, is how the British started off in many places. Imperial inroads into Africa were constructed by chartered companies whose agents’ brutality is reminiscent of the Blackwaters of the twenty-first century. Afghanistan was governed indirectly through puppet rulers, and whole systems of imagined “chieftaincies” were set up in West Africa to extract resources from the region for the benefit of Britain.

As the British experience shows, even empires which are supposedly liberal are dependent on violence—and many would argue that to rule a liberal empire of the sort that the U.S. aspires to in our own age necessitates violence. So to call for the establishment of a Pax Americana which the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and McCain have vocally supported, and which Obama’s policies are tacitly substantiating, is to call for eternal war.

An American who will turn 18 in 2012 will have been born in 1994—the year that right-wing Republicans recaptured Congress and issued the aggressive and jingoistic National Security Restoration Act. That American will have been born into a country that was at war from the time they were seven years old. They will be old enough to vote for the first time, and could have joined the military mere months from now. Let us hope that by that stage we will have begun to demand some accountability of our President and Congress over the wars that they are waging in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and to reject the notion that we should remain as occupying powers in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are currently off the radars of many people (including, it would seem, much of Congress). Writing to newspapers and Congressional representatives will begin to ensure that there is a public debate about these wars.

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