Afghan Tsunami, Made in USA
by Farooq Sulehria

"We are only a few years removed from the rule of the terrorists, when women were denied education and every basic human right. That tyranny has been replaced by a young democracy, and the power of freedom is on display across Afghanistan," said Laura Bush in Kabul, on March 30, 2005. Three weeks later, in Badakhshan province, a man accused his wife Amina, who was seeking divorce, of adultery, and the local mullahs "sentenced" her to death by stoning - a sentence which was carried out by local villagers. Afghanistan was in the headlines again.

But a week later, there was barely a mention in the media when members of the Revolutionary Afghan Women Association (RAWA) gathered outside UN office in Islamabad to mourn April 28 - a date that Laura Bush is unlikely to know the implications of, for Afghan women.

It was on April 28, 1992, that Kabul fell to the religious elements unleashed on Afghanistan by Mrs Bush's country.

It was also in April (1978) that communists in the Afghan air force and army had seized Kabul. Their party, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) promised elections and reforms -- the word "reform," not yet prostituted by the World Bank then meant public health, free education, subsidies to farmers and abolition of feudalism.

The Empire stalled these reform programmes leading Afghanistan to modernisation not just because it wanted to give the USSR its Vietnam but also because the Saur (April) Revolution was the last socialist revolution -- and that too, in a Muslim country of great strategic importance. So Washington unleashed a bearded counter-revolution. Both Osama and Hamid Karzai are by-products of a made-in-USA tsunami unleashed in 1979 to counter the Afghan revolution. So it is hardly surprising that the "secular" Karzai celebrated April 28 with a military parade in Kabul.

It is true that the bitterly factionalised PDPA failed to fulfil the promise of democratising Afghanistan, but it did partly introduce education, health and agricultural reforms. Afghan women for the first time started enjoying the freedom they had been denied. More and more women shed the burqa, attained higher education and took up employment. The burqa did not disappear in the countryside and was still visible even in towns, but there was no "moral police" and the mullah dared not sentence an Amina to death by stoning.

The PDPA was also repressive and ruthlessly crushed the opposition -- but after its overthrow, what followed was a nightmare, as warlords ruled the roost and murder, plunder, rape, kidnappings and the narcotics trade became the order of the day. Washington ignored the situation until Unocal developed an interest in a pipeline project.

Then Empire ordered its satraps in Islamabad to put the Afghan house in order. The Chaklala-based khakis achieved their first-ever victory abroad, with the Taliban as a mask, by capturing Kabul for Unocal. As long as the Taliban were ready to co-operate, the bearded delegates from Kabul enjoyed US hospitality in Texas, where Bush was state governor.

The Western media considered the video clips secretly filmed by a brave RAWA member at the risk of her life, showing the Taliban executing a woman in Kabul's football stadium, as too sensitive to be shown to their audiences. Western sensitivity got hurt only when the Buddha statues fell at Bamiyan -- although according to the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, "the Buddha was not demolished in Afghanistan, it collapsed out of shame."

The events of "9/11", which demonstrated the efficiency of the CIA training to al-Qaeda, brought the US back to Afghanistan. The Empire decided to "liberate" the country (set up military bases there) and "democratise" it (replacing the non-cooperative Taliban with cooperative warlords). Three years down the line, "many people have begun to feel life was better under the harsh Islamic laws of the Taliban, because they could at least guarantee the safety of their children," according to an AFP report of April 10, 2005.

The US media are focused on Iraq -- only Newsweek, The Washington Post and AP still have fulltime staffers in Kabul. They run feel-good stories occasionally, as when Condoleezza Rice or Laura Bush visit the Afghan capital. But in contrast to the US media, other, more credible sources have only tragedies to narrate: "Afghanistan facing health disaster worse than the tsunami," "Warlord rapes going unchecked in Afghanistan" (Human Rights Watch).

US ambassador, or viceroy, Zalmay Khalilzad, endorsed warlord Abdul Rasheed Dostum's appointment as a "wise" move. Carter's National Security chief Zbigniew Brzezinski had no doubt in the wisdom of the creation of the Taliban. "What is more important to the history of mankind: the Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?" Brzezinski told a French newspaper in 1998.

After the collapse of the Soviet empire, Brzezinski became consultant for the oil giant Amoco. But for the Afghan masses, the end of the Cold War did not bring any change. The UN National Human Development Report 2004 ranked their country 173rd out of 178 countries. Around 700 children below the age of five die every day and the average life span remains 44 years. Taliban of different hues shaved off their beards, joined Karzai's Alliance and turned Afghanistan into a narco-state (drug money accounts for 60 percent of the country's GDP). Only $3.4 billion of the promised $13.4 billion reconstruction money has arrived in Kabul's coffers.

Last winter claimed 600 lives, and summer is not bringing any good news either. The Taliban are accelerating their attacks. Karzai is busy wooing them through Pakistan's MMA leadership… Tariq Ali brilliantly sums up the Afghan situation in his book Clash of Fundamentalisms: "The former CIA collaborator Hamid Karzai can always get a job modelling chic Pashtumwear in North America and Europe, the US pro-consul Zalmay Khalilzad can return to the White House or Unocal, but what of the dying and suffering people of Afghanistan? Once the Marines depart, with or without the head of bin Laden, the Alliance will discover that there is no money for anything these days except waging war. The boy-scout propaganda that 'we are remaking the world' is designed for domestic consumption. Schools and hospitals and homes are not going to be sprouting next spring or the one after in Afghanistan…"

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