On Oct. 7, 2001, the Bush administration began its murderous bombing of Afghanistan, dropping 5,000-pound bombs on nearly every major town and city in the country. The Taliban quickly retreated from their seat of power in Kabul to the countryside, where they have put up steady and ever-growing resistance to U.S. and NATO ground troops.
Seven-and-a-half years later, the U.S. military has in Afghanistan yet another quagmire. They are faced with two choices: to commit more troops and expand the occupation of Afghanistan or to seek a deal with elements of the resistance. The latter option—which is the Pentagon’s current pacification strategy in Iraq—would be perceived widely as a defeat for U.S. imperialism, and would fail to produce a client regime in Kabul. This option has been officially taken off the table, and only a few dissident ruling class voices dare advocate for it.
Instead, the U.S. ruling class has rallied around a plan to intensify the warfare in Afghanistan. They are hoping for a decisive blow to destroy and demoralize the Afghani resistance, and then impose their will through “diplomatic” means. In reality, it is the same strategy that Israel just tried—unsuccessfully—in Gaza.
On the campaign trail, Obama heavily promoted a plan to draw troops away from Iraq and send an additional two combat brigades, about 7,000 troops, into Afghanistan. Now the proposed number has quadrupled, a “surge” equaling Bush’s 2007 “surge” in Iraq. Undoubtedly, the Pentagon is hoping to utilize Obama’s popularity—among liberal forces in particular—to reinvigorate support for the war on Afghanistan. Indeed, Obama and the Democratic Party establishment have gone to great lengths to cast it as the “good war” to protect the United States from terrorism.
But the war on Afghanistan is nothing but a cruel manipulation of those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center. The neoconservatives in the Bush administration saw in it an opportunity to forcibly reconfigure Central Asia—an area of tremendous wealth in natural resources and a key strategic point for some of the world’s most important oil pipelines. The Democrats supported Bush every step of the way.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the war-mongers in Washington promoted a patriotic fervor to isolate anti-war critics. In that difficult climate, the traditional “peace” organizations sat on their hands with nothing to say. Only the ANSWER Coalition emerged as a political force willing to organize against the phony “war on terror,” mobilizing an anti-war protest of 25,000 in Washington, DC just 18 days after the World Trade Center attacks.
United for Peace and Justice—which emerged to counter ANSWER’s popularity in the early days of the anti-Iraq war movement—has shied away from any issues that would signal a definitive break from the Democratic establishment. It is for this reason that the UFPJ leadership opposes the Palestinian right to return and have long refused to call for an immediate end to the occupation of Afghanistan. They instead urged a “surge in diplomacy” to “press for a multilateral regional effort at stabilization” and “prevent an escalation” of the war. In calling for a vague “rapid withdrawal” in the future—without defining “rapid”—they repeatedly mimicked the deceptive phrases of the ruling class.
The Dec. 12-14, 2008, UFPJ convention supposedly passed a resolution to finally embrace the slogan of immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Yet a month later, the UFPJ website states, “Whatever our views on the U.S. military in Afghanistan, an escalation will mean more casualties.” This ambiguity—leaving the door wide open to the possibility that the U.S. occupation has a constructive role to play in Afghanistan—is not accidental. Just this month, the Communist Party-USA, a leading organization in UFPJ that has backed every Democratic presidential candidate in the last 60 years, wrote, “We must continue to support diplomacy [in Afghanistan] as well as discuss real international intervention in their country’s on-going battle with religious fundamentalists.”
No, this is precisely what we must not do. It is not up to the U.S. anti-war movement to decide the political destiny of an occupied people. The Taliban is a reactionary religious-political grouping that came to power in the mid-1990s following the 13-year CIA-sponsored war to overthrow the socialist government set up in Afghanistan’s 1978 revolution. But the struggle there must be waged by the Afghan people on Afghan soil. Our responsibility here is large, but simple: to demand an immediate end to the occupation. All talk of “international intervention” to combat “fundamentalists” obscures the real aims of the war, plays into imperialist propaganda, and is a violation of the Afghan people’s basic right to self-determination. Clearly, it is again up to the anti-imperialist forces to confront the mythology of the Afghanistan war. On March 21, we will march on the Pentagon and take up that challenge.