Lies my invader told me
Date: Tuesday, November 19 @ 11:55:21 UTC
Topic: Afghanistan

By Paul Harris, Source: YellowTimes

About a year ago, the forces of the United States descended upon Afghanistan like a plague of locusts. They had come for revenge following horrible events that occurred in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. They had come looking for one Saudi man who they believed had orchestrated an attack on American soil. While they were at it, they thought they would pick off a few of his friends as well: Muslim clerics who had vowed death to the Americans and had probably delivered on their vow in more than one instance; fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan targeted because it appeared the bad guys were probably living there with impunity and, besides, these fundamentalists weren't very nice dudes anyway.

Like most American military adventures, there is a marketing component. Consider the comments of Andrew Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, explaining why the Bush administration waited to make a push for war against Iraq until the U.S. election season: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

The marketing with regard to the attack on Afghanistan was full of hype and promise, as marketing usually is, and full of nothing else, as marketing usually is. They were going to get Osama bin Laden, and they haven't. They were going to get Osama's chief henchmen, and they haven't. They were going to topple the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and rebuild the country, and they've sort of done the first part of that.

If you were one of the innocent residents of Afghanistan who managed to duck the American bombing, you might be forgiven for wondering just when all this rebuilding might be happening. You might wonder where all the American dollars are that were going to flow into your country to help you recover from years of Taliban rule and from the devastation of American bombs. You might smile with irony when you look around and see that not a heck of a lot has changed. One year after the U.S. managed to drive the Taliban out of Kabul, you won't find many Afghans who think the world has kept its promises to help them recover.

Kabul is certainly a different city than it was a year ago. Lots of it is still standing but there are ruins everywhere. People fill the previously empty streets and life seems to be a little gentler and a little less threatening. But not by much.

Much of the problem stems from the fact that the present government in Afghanistan is essentially confined to Kabul. Its control outside the capital is extremely shaky and many of the repressions that were the hallmarks of the Taliban are beginning to creep back into daily life: television censorship, re-establishment of religious restrictions, attacks on schools for girls - popularly believed to be with the approval of the central government.

Outside of Kabul, warlords still rule supreme and actually appear to be stronger today than before the Taliban went on the lam. The Taliban was, if nothing else, a force for stability; in the absence of that strong central control, the warlords are having free reign. The efforts to reorganize the country with a Loya Jirga, or grand council, were a dismal failure. It ceded almost all power to the tribal warlords and ensured that tribal and ethnic rivalries would continue to keep the people of this country from uniting in any meaningful way.

Following the flight of the Taliban, there was promise. There was the chance that the Afghans could, with outside financial help, get back on their feet. It is only about thirty years ago that Afghanistan was a tourist destination. Many Afghans will certainly remember when their land was safe and prosperous. The average person might have hoped for something better after years of harsh Taliban brutality and after enduring a few months of mass killing by their 'liberators.' They are probably asking each other when all this promised assistance from the rest of the world is going to show up.

President Hamid Karzai says that emergency assistance is not going to rebuild his country. He has been critical of aid agencies for failing to embark on a formal reconstruction program. His criticism is valid. You cannot spend several years destroying the infrastructure of a country through mismanagement, then to destroy with bombs the things that are still standing, and expect that sending a few bucks will be enough. Some American commentators bragged during the initial assault on Afghanistan that they were going to 'blow it back to the Stone Age.' Well, they succeeded, and helping it recover is going to take a much more concerted and organized effort than the Afghan people have seen so far.

"The fact is, about $600 million in aid has been sent to Afghanistan, the biggest chunk of that coming from the United States. Ask any Afghan where it went and you will likely be told there was no money. The government claims to be shocked that all this money has apparently arrived at their doorstep. Yusuf Pashtun, minister of housing and urban development, says the government has only received about $80 million in aid and that most has gone to non-governmental organizations or the United Nations. He claims that the U.N. alone spent almost every penny of the aid just on transporting themselves around Afghanistan. That's a lot of gas money."

So, if you're the average Afghan citizen, do you thank the Americans or despise them? Are you better off today than a year ago? Do you have any hope that you'll be better off a year from now? Can you convince yourself that the world has kept its promises to the people of Afghanistan or are you starting to develop the same sort of resentment that turns people to violence as a way of escape?

The Taliban was the government of Afghanistan for several years and ruled with a brutality recognized around the world. That never caught the attention of the Americans until it appeared they might be harboring someone the U.S. wanted. Then, with promises that everything would be made right when the noise died down, the Americans showed up with all their weaponry and laid waste to the land. It is a hellhole now, and where are the Americans? Off threatening a new target.

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