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tyranny has been replaced by a young democracy, and the power of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
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
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
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
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…"