Legacy of imperialism
AFGHANISTAN IS a country that has been devastated by wars and poverty. Its dire situation is the result of 150 years of imperialist intervention. Britain twice invaded and occupied Afghanistan in the 19th century. Britain only finally left the country in 1919. In 1979 Russian troops invaded Afghanistan when they thought a government friendly to them would fall.
The US then spent ten years pumping $43 billion into arming Islamic groups to oppose the influence of the Russians. US president Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, so beloved of the Sun, then called these groups "freedom fighters". Yet the US withdrew aid to these groups the moment Russian troops retreated from their occupation of the country in 1989. The US then encouraged its Saudi Arabian ally to finance its own group, the Taliban.
During the civil war which followed the evacuation of Russian troops some three million Afghan refugees were in camps around Peshawar, a town in north west Pakistan. As an Afghan interpreter at Stansted put it last week, "We had our country ruined in the war against the Soviets, but when the Cold War was over the West just let us drop." Just two years ago US president Clinton ordered the bombing of Afghanistan to "fight the terrorist threat".
The US military rained down cruise missiles on the country, killing at least 20 people. The raid was backed wholeheartedly by Tony Blair. The bombing did absolutely nothing to help the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban's regime in Afghanistan is brutal. It denies any rights to women and summary executions are regularly carried out. Amnesty International estimates that two decades of civil war have left more than a million people dead. Is it any wonder many people are desperate to leave such a country?