Revolutionary Worker #1130, December 9, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
The U.S. ground invasion of Central Asia is on.
U.S. forces have taken over another airbase, this time in the republic of Kyrgystan--adding to the staging areas the U.S. has already taken over in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. A thousand U.S. marines have landed outside Kandahar to wage war in southern Afghanistan. British and U.S. commandos are turning the huge former Soviet airbase at Bagram into an "in-country" headquarters.
The whole country is crawling with U.S. agents--CIA spies, Special Forces, commandos, advisers--along with as many mercenary cutthroats and feudal opportunists as a superpower can hire.
Welcome to the empire.
The U.S. government always portrays its every act of war as a fight for goodness. This moment is no different. Military tribunals are portrayed as "defense of freedom." And the conquest of Afghanistan is discussed as "liberation."
U.S. rulers are focused on killing those who they have charged with the events of September 11--as an example to the world. But they are also, inevitably, involved in reconstructing Afghanistan as a more reliable part of their New World Order. Even while the shooting continues --their diplomats and advisers must prepare a new pro-U.S. government in Afghanistan. The U.S. allies and third world countries around the region--all of them have to be hammered or cajoled into their place within a world-spanning U.S.-dominated order.
"Nation building" may be out of style, but "empire building" is as in as ever.
What does this mean for the people of Afghanistan--and the rest of Central and Southern Asia? Guns are still speaking all over Afghanistan. But it is possible to see in the moves of the U.S. and of the local puppets they are unleashing, what the empire's vision is for post-war society.
Peel back the lies, and what you see are new arrangements of the same hateful old oppressions.
CIA Interrogations Followed by Massacre
After the Taliban folded across northern Afghanistan, thousands of their fighters were trapped in Kunduz. To placate Pakistan's ruling class, the U.S. allowed airplanes to ferry out Pakistani fundamentalists from the city. Many of the rest surrendered on November 24 to the Northern Alliance forces. Between 400 and 800 prisoners of war were taken to the Qalai Janghi prison fortress in Mazar-i-Sharif controlled by the warlord General Rashid Dostum. Then over three days, Northern Alliance gunfire and U.S. bombing killed them, leaving few survivors.
The U.S. media gave the world the Pentagon's justification: the prisoners rose up, seized arms, became combatants and were killed. The CIA agent who died on the scene is being promoted as a "hero."
Meanwhile, facts surfaced that suggest another story. Reporters at the fort were told to stay out of its southern section. A photographer snuck in and discovered piles of prisoners who had died with their arms tied behind them. He watched Northern Alliance soldiers cutting the bindings to hide the truth.
According to the London Times, eyewitnesses suggest a desperation uprising was triggered by CIA interrogators and the move by General Dostum's troops to tie up the prisoners.
These reports suggest that the prisoners feared execution and CIA torture. Over 200 prisoners had been tied up by their guards before the rest attacked their armed captors. The prisoners reportedly killed one of the CIA interrogators with their bare hands in the first moments of struggle --as he and his guards opened fire on the prisoners.
Over the following three days, the Northern Alliance and the U.S. carried out a systematic massacre of these POWs -- which some Arab newspapers are suggesting was the plan all along. There were at least 30 bombing attacks on the fortress by U.S. warplanes and helicopters--reportedly killing most of the prisoners inside.
A Times reporter said 12 Americans and British SAS commandos were "running the show"--arrogantly ordering the Northern Alliance troops and officers about as they "mopped up" on the ground. Prisoners trying to surrender were executed on the spot. Days later, a small group of survivors were forced out by flooding the ruins. Whether they were then executed is not yet known.
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have called for investigations into whether the massacre of prisoners violated international law and the Geneva accords. The U.S. and British governments rejected the idea of any inquiry.
Abdullah Jan Tawhidi, a deputy in the Alliance's Ministry of Security and Intelligence, said, "It was not a big deal." A British government source told the Guardian: "You cannot be too squeamish." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld remarked that he never liked the various surrender deals and preferred to kill the forces opposing the U.S.
The International Herald Tribune reported another massacre of 160 prisoners near Kandahar, with U.S. advisers nearby. A pro-U.S. Pashtun commander said: "They were made to stand in a long line, and five or six of our fighters used light machine-guns on them."
U.S. Proxies on the Ground
The U.S. imperialists have been eager to hire local forces to do the killing and dying for them. The Northern Alliance troops that the U.S. has led (and protected from the air) are deeply reactionary forces with a long history of anti-people massacres and oppression.
The Tajik-chauvinist forces who dominate the Northern Alliance and are now holding Kabul include the commanders who directed mass rapes of Shi'ite women in that city in 1995.
General Dostum served as a prominent commander for the Soviet invaders in the 1980s. He has a brutal history of killing those who fell into his hands--including many progressives and Maoist revolutionaries. He fought the Taliban in the '90s -- when they were being promoted by the Pakistani secret service and the U.S. He is head of the second largest force that is (for now) on the U.S. payroll.
All kinds of local feudals and gangsters are taking power in provincial towns abandoned by the Taliban. Among the warlords staging a comeback is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar--now "governor" of Logar province outside Kabul-- who is hated for ordering the torture and executions of hundreds of Maoist revolutionaries during the 1980s. Before he became the head of the CIA-funded army of Mujahideen, he made his name as leader of a fundamentalist student group in Kabul that threw acid in the faces of women who dared go outside without a veil.
These are the forces the U.S. bombs and troops have now put back into power over the people of Afghanistan.
The Puppet Show
The UN hosted a fig-leaf party in Bonn, Germany during the end of November -- to cover up the crudely colonialist U.S. takeover of Afghanistan. The conference gathered various reactionary groups in hopes of lashing together a puppet coalition the U.S. can then impose on the people of Afghanistan.
The plan of the U.S. and the UN was to create a "transitional government" that could rule Kabul (if not the larger country) while it gathered legitimacy from "an emergency Loya Jirga"--a handpicked assembly of feudal chieftains that would be held in the spring.
The U.S. calls this plan "broad-based" --which means "every toad we can buy." Meanwhile the masses of people--the workers, peasants, refugees, women and progressives of the country--are supposed to stay powerless and under the gun.
This Bonn gathering was a sham from the beginning--because most of the exiles represented there have no influence in the country. The King, whom the U.S. is promoting for overall power in Kabul, has no real backing other than the U.S. Marines.
The Northern Alliance, which does have both troops and territory, was not interested in giving up the post of "puppet in chief" (or the lucrative control of the "reconstruction" funds and food shipments that are expected) to this exiled playboy-King (who is so old he actually had ties to Hitler). They were equally uninterested in giving up the capital Kabul to some foreign "UN force."
Bonn was also a sham because the U.S. tried to portray it as a step toward national self-determination and even the emancipation of Afghan women.
None of the forces gathered in Bonn are anything but reactionary cutthroats and shameless running dogs of this-or-that foreign power. Those bucking the U.S. plans (like some sections of the Northern Alliance) did so with the backing of Russian imperialists and the Iranian bourgeoisie. And to emphasize that, the Russian army has sent hundreds of troops into Kabul.
The U.S. portrays a UN army for Kabul as a "neutral" force--while everyone expects such a force would be based on the fascist Turkish military, those genocidal stranglers of self-determination in Kurdistan.
As for the liberation of women: The U.S. has carried out a campaign suggesting that its troops are bringing improvement for the women of Afghanistan. A few Afghan women were invited as tokens or observers in Bonn.
Even though it is not clear yet exactly who will rule post-war Afghanistan--it is clear that the future government will rule a society where women are oppressed and subjugated. Even a moment's thought raises the question: What policies are represented by this Loya Jirga? The U.S. promotes these tribal councils as some "traditional" voice of the Afghan people. But in reality--the Loya Jirga is an assembly of the top 200 gangsters, feudal warlords and tribal chieftains, not the people. Their whole power and influence is rooted in the oppressive patriarchal customs of traditional society and in their ties to foreign powers and opium networks. Can anyone imagine them ending the forced marriage for girls? Or the subordination of women in the home--to husbands and fathers? Or upholding secular education and science over religious madness?
Meanwhile U.S. Marines and other troops who set up bases in Central Asia will certainly introduce nearby girls and women to some "modern" capitalist sex roles--in vast red-light districts like those they imposed on women in Bangkok, Subic Bay in the Philippines, Okinawa, Bahrain, and every other place they have set foot. Or perhaps the women of Afghanistan will get some of the "liberation" that working women experience in the sweatshops of U.S. corporations in Hong Kong and Jakarta.
The U.S. is organizing a contest for "top running dog" with feudal chieftains hired to play rubber stamp. It is trying to form a stable puppet government out of the same feudal and bourgeois class forces who ruled under the Taliban.
Can the masses of people, including brutally oppressed women, of Afghanistan ever be truly liberated without overthrowing these very forces--the feudals, the wannabee comprador capitalists and all the various imperialists who strain to dominate the world?
LIBERATION--a sweet, precious word in the ears of the oppressed. We whisper it in our dreams. We share it when we gather to plan and act for a different world. The soiling of this word in the headlines of U.S. media is infuriating-- "the liberation of Kunduz," they say, then "liberation of Kabul" and so on. The U.S. is working to shatter the Taliban, a brutal and reactionary movement their agents had helped put in power. In its place, they are preparing other brutal and reactionary forces--who they hope will be both more obedient and more efficient in serving them.
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