Socialist Worker

Afghan disaster ignored by West

Issue No. 1768

MILLIONS OF people in Afghanistan were suffering from George Bush's war drive at the start of this week, before he had unleashed a single bomb. Threats of a ferocious US-led assault on Afghanistan forced relief agencies to pull out.

At the same time the United Nations food and agriculture office released a report on the catastrophic food shortages in the war-torn country. It says, 'Three consecutive years of drought and intensifying economic problems have put millions in danger of starvation. 'An estimated five million Afghans have little or no access to food.' The US has placed a strict embargo on the export of even food and medicine to Afghanistan.

The relief programme which fed 300,000 people in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has simply been wound up. People will begin to die very shortly. Leaders in the West bear full responsibility for that. The UN food agency warned on 8 June that 'millions of Afghans are facing starvation.' That was three months before the destruction of the World Trade Centre, and no one in the British or US governments cared.

They sent no food convoys. They allowed people to starve. Now they have tightened the noose further as they launch a war against a country that is suffering on the scale of Ethiopia in 1985-when images of starving children rightly drew sympathy across the world.

  • Life expectancy in Afghanistan is just 47 years.

  • Afghanistan also has the highest level of infant mortality outside sub-Saharan Africa.

    The global resistance

    'THE ASSAULT on the World Trade Centre was unpardonable, but it is important not to lose perspective, especially a historical one. The over 5,000 lives lost in New York are irreplaceable, but one must not forget that the atomic raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 210,000 people, most of them civilians. The purpose of the nuclear bombings was to terrorise and destroy the civilian population. The whole Allied air campaign against Germany and Japan in 1944-5 had as its central aim to kill and maim as many civilians as possible. Indeed, one can say that terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, an ex-CIA protege, have learned their lessons on the strategic importance of targeting the civilian population from Washington's traditional strategy of total warfare.'
    WALDEN BELLO, Filipino economist and leading figure in the anti-capitalist movement

    'THIS IS a week for immediate mobilisations in every city in Italy, with debates, meetings and demonstrations. The vendetta can lead to thousands of innocent victims. The mobilisations will lead up to a great demonstration in Perugia-Assisi on 14 October.'
    VITTORIO AGNOLETTO, leader of the Genoa Social Forum that organised the huge demonstration two months ago

    'BOMBING, encouragement of dictatorships, sweatshops for the benefit of US corporations, Third World debt, hunger or lack of shelter or healthcare are all forms of violence. Until we understand the violence of our economic, military and foreign policies, we continue to foster the conditions that make terrorism possible. We demand no more terror or violence be perpetrated in our name.'
    AMERICAN ANTI-CAPITALIST CONVERGENCE, calling for the Global Justice demonstration in Washington this weekend to turn into an anti-war protest

    'THE CRUSADE of 'good' against 'evil' proclaimed by the US president is about affirming the political and strategic domination of the US, and the power of its multinationals.'
    ATTAC, French 'anti-globalisation' movement

    No help on mines

    THERE ARE ten million landmines in Afghanistan left by retreating Russian forces in 1989.

    Every day 20 to 25 Afghans are killed or maimed by these mines. There has never been any offer from the West to help clear them.

    Patriots for sale

    THE US government called on shareholders to act 'patriotically' and buy shares when the Wall Street financial markets opened last week.

    Many small shareholders rushed to buy. But the value of shares collapsed 10 percent throughout the week as big investors sold shares.

    The king of starvation

    THE superpowers have had a hand in bringing every government to power in Afghanistan over the last quarter of a century-including the Taliban. The US, through its allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supported the creation of the Taliban in 1994 and its seizure of the capital, Kabul, two years later.

    Russian president Vladimir Putin is now joining forces with George Bush to bomb a country which the Russian army devastated in a decade of occupation from 1979. Putin is also using the war fever to renew an offensive against people seeking independence in Chechnya.

    The Russian military has already flattened the Chechen capital, Grozny. Some Western leaders are flirting with the idea of reimposing deposed king Muhammad Zahir Shah on the people of Afghanistan. He was kicked out in 1973. The previous year he had refused to open up grain stores to alleviate famine. About 100,000 people starved to death.

    The other leader Bush is considering backing is General Abdur Rasheed Dostum. Over the last ten years he has made alliances with almost any group in Afghanistan he thought would strengthen his rule over the Uzbek minority in the north of the country.

    At one point he allied with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the man responsible for pounding Kabul, killing 25,000 people in one week.

    Charities speak out

    LEADING CHARITIES pleaded last week with Western leaders to abandon revenge war against the people of Afghanistan. The 14 charities and aid organisations included Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children, Amnesty International, the World Development Movement and others.

    Their statement read, 'Thousands of innocent people have died in the US. We must now make sure that even more innocent lives are not lost.' It called for avoiding 'a descent into a spiral of violence'.

    Many of the organisations have long been providing aid and assistance inside Afghanistan.

    Then... and now

    US PRESIDENT Ronald Reagan poured hundreds of millions of dollars behind the Afghan resistance to Russian occupation in the 1980s.

    Rambo 3, a gung-ho film by pro-Reagan actor Sylvester Stallone, was dedicated to 'the Afghan people'. Reagan and Margaret Thatcher lauded the Afghan Mujahadeen as 'freedom fighters'.

    Refugee outrage from New Labour

    REFUGEES fleeing poverty and persecution under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan have not been given a warm welcome by New Labour in Britain. In May, June and July this year New Labour refused asylum to 520 Afghan refugees.

    Mohammed Naveen Asif arrived in Britain from Afghanistan 16 months ago. He has become a spokesperson for asylum seekers in Sighthill in Glasgow, where he lives.

    He told Socialist Worker, 'They want to bomb us, and on the other side they think Afghan refugees should be stopped. Where do Afghans go? We have only one choice-to be killed. We condemn the attacks in the US. Those responsible should be brought to justice, but not at the expense of the Afghan people.'

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    Article information

    Sat 29 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1768
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