Aijaz Ahmad (Fwd)

jenyan1 jenyan1 at
Sat Sep 29 15:35:08 MDT 2001

A decade of the most brutal military and economic
warfare without committing ground troops or trying to
occupy large chunks of Iraq has not succeeded in
toppling Saddam Hussein. Chances of success of that
sort of warfare in Afghanistan are even more remote;
as one of the Taliban put it, "We don't even have a
factory which could be a reasonable military target."
Direct landing in Kabul or Kandahar would only turn
the Taliban into phantoms scurrying around in the
hinterlands, bleeding the U.S. militarily and financially,
and winning new allies in the face of a foreign
occupation force. Bin Laden's numerous camps are
perfectly well known to the Americans since he
initially built them with their money and assistance.
But he is a moving target, with a widespread following,
and with numerous camps, many of which are dug deep
under the mountains.

One of the likely scenarios is a round of massive
bombings and well-orchestrated commando operations
to disorganise and soften up the targets, killing a great
many number of people and hoping that many of those
killed would be the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda.
This could then be followed by actual landing and
taking over ghost cities, from which the surviving
civilians would have fled, as a prelude to establishing a
U.N-sponsored Afghan administration drawn from
among the enemies of the Taliban, and settling down to
a long-term scorched earth operation from some bases
inside Afghanistan but mainly from the outside.

Hence, there are two emphases in American
pronouncements thus far. Bush emphasised to the U.S.
public time and again that there shall be casualties this
time and that the campaign shall be prolonged. And,
there is enormous pressure on Pakistan, Azerbaijan
and Tajikistan to provide base facilities, and upon
Russia to use its influence in this regard. The
information obtained from Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) would be crucial for even a moderate
level of success of the American design. Pakistan's
historic involvement in Afghanistan on the side of the
Americans and its geopolitical location may yet come
to haunt Jaswant Singh's dream of turning India into
America's "most allied ally", as Pakistan was once

What does all this portend for Afghanistan? It is a
country devastated by some two decades of the most
brutal warfare and, since the fall of the People's
Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government,
equally brutal forms of rule. For a population of roughly
26 million, there are six million land mines dug into its
earth which kill or maim 100 people a week. There are
3.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and
another one million or so internal refugees, hungry and
homeless, who roam the country hoping to survive
another day. It has suffered three consecutive years of
drought, and the combined effects of war, misrule and
drought has meant that until only a few days ago the
U.N. World Food Programme was feeding three million
Afghans in the countryside and some 300,000 in Kabul
itself. Virtually the whole of that institutional
infrastructure has now collapsed under the threat of a
U.S. invasion, and those who are now deprived even of
that meagre rations are facing imminent death even
without the U.S. firing even a shot - just like the Iraqi
children who die not of bullets but for lack of the food
and medicine which the U.S.-imposed embargo denies

Afghanistan is in this state as a consequence of the
anti-communist, Islamised crusade that the U.S.
cynically waged there before abandoning it to its own
miseries. This is the country that the mightiest empire
in human history has now set out to subjugate with all
its technological and financial might, but with little
chance of success.

AMERICA cannot win but it shall not suffer either.
The Afghans shall not be subjugated but they shall
suffer and perhaps even a majority of them might
perish or become homeless and get consigned to a
subhuman existence. That is the asymmetry of power
in our time: those who rule the universe shall not be
victorious against the poorest and the most wretched of
this earth; those who refuse subjugation shall be made
to suffer miseries that no previous period in human
history inflicted on the powerless. War shall be
permanent because the war cannot end without justice
and justice is what the U.S. has set out to deny,
permanently. The war shall be globalised because in
this period of globalisation there is a singular power
whose task it is to guarantee regimes of injustice
throughout the world. And much of this war shall be
secret, like much of the movements of finance capital
because finance capital is what this war serves and
therefore imitates. Bush is right: this is truly "a task
that has no end" - until someone rises to end it.

Will there be organised opposition to these imperial
designs? That is still hard to tell. Haaretz, the Israeli
newspaper, mentions a poll taken in 30 countries in
which only the U.S. and Israel are shown to be the
countries where majorities are in favour of war:
three-fourths in Israel, an overwhelmingly
war-mongering society in any case, but only a bare
majority in the U.S., with 54 per cent. Will even this
majority hold once the immediate shock and grief have
been absorbed and put in some perspective? Will the
majority shrink or expand if Americans begin to die in
obscure places? It is too soon to tell. What is already
heartening is that there is great opposition to the type
of military operations that involve large numbers of
civilian deaths, and a student movement of anti-war
activists is beginning to emerge on many campuses.

A brief word about this particular form of fighting
which is called "terrorism". Bush was careful enough to
say that America's enemy was that particular
"terrorism" which "has global reach". In other words,
the is not particularly concerned with the great many
varieties, which include the Irish Republican Army
(IRA) in Ireland, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) in Sri Lanka, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) fraternity in India.

Nor is "fundamentalism" the issue: Taliban
fundamentalism is bad but Saudi fundamentalism is
good, and Bush himself of course speaks the language of
that Christian fundamentalism which defines the Far
Right in contemporary U.S. "Terrorism with global
reach," the designated enemy, is the one that challenges
American power.

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