The Afghanistan war on Remembrance Sunday

Christopher King

Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph when Britain remembers its war dead: a simple ceremony, always in grey weather, its brevity welcome since the attempt to grasp its meaning is unbearable.

Anthony Blair was present. In future he should stay away and similarly Gordon Brown.

Prior to the ceremony, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, a useful pilot, spoke of our current war. “We have not done a good enough job of explaining what we are doing in Afghanistan,” he said. Curiously, Gordon Brown, our prime minister, said exactly the same thing shortly before. I had listened with interest as the existence of a convincing explanation was implied but none came.

Sir Jock was not so reticent: We are still fighting Al-Qaeda who have suffered great damage and are now concentrated in a small area of Pakistan. Our troops are defending the national interest by supporting the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s army is more advanced than its police (one of whom killed five British servicemen a few days ago) and recruitment is improving. The Taliban have suffered significant losses; however, we are not fighting the Taliban: we are fighting to protect the population. General McChrystal (the American commander in Afghanistan) has “some of the best counter-insurgency brains in the world to advise him. They say that he needs more force.” They have a new strategy and a new plan.

Of course they have a new plan. None of the old ones worked over eight years and nor does any of this explanation. Sir Jock implied that Al-Qaeda is now cornered in Pakistan. I might not possess one of the best counter-insurgency brains in my street but even I know that one cannot corner a bunch of terrorists, who look like everyone else, in a small area of Pakistan. These finely honed, specialized brains have not been able to locate Osama bin Laden whose face everyone in the world knows and whose capture was allegedly the primary objective of the invasion. Frankly, any brain in reasonable condition, chosen at random from the street, could readily conclude that if present levels of force are ineffective, more force might work.

Perhaps. Calculations of troop to population ratios based on the counter-insurgency manual by General Petraeus, head of US Central Command and McChrystal’s superior officer, indicate that at a ratio of 20:1 a NATO force of 640,000 would be needed for Afghanistan’s 32 million civilians (the ratio applies to persons of fighting-age). Either a massive increase in armed force above the current 100,000 NATO troops is needed or increasing numbers by the 40,000 that the cerebrations of McChrystal’s advisers want, will still not give success.

These “explanations” are rubbish. They do not correspond with the reality of American-led occupation, absence of any achievable objective, an absurd nation-building plan carried out by soldiers, a corrupt, discredited, puppet government, corrupt elections, an unreliable Afghan army that hardly exists and a population that hates the foreign occupiers who continue to kick their doors down and kill them.

This is an American war. It has nothing to do with the UK or NATO. It is, on the face of it, retaliation against Osama and a small number of Al-Qaeda – as a guess, a hard core of less than 100 men, perhaps less than 50, following the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack. No Afghans were involved. The Taliban were not involved. The Pakistanis were not involved. The attackers were mostly Saudis and were based not Afghanistan but in Germany and the United States itself. The plan originated in the Phillippines. George Bush’s assertion that the Taliban “made common cause with and gave safe haven to Al-Qaeda” has no basis. It was a lie.

A common “explanation” was advanced by Sir Jock’s boss, General Richards, who said in his Chatham House speech that Taliban success in Afghanistan would have a “hugely intoxicating impact on extremists world-wide [in] the perceived defeat of the USA and NATO, the most powerful alliance in the history of the world and the debilitating impact on these countries. Anything might then be possible in the extremists’ eyes.” Surely General Richards has noticed that it was Al-Qaeda who are the extremists. The Taliban who he is fighting never had any interest in attacking the US or UK. Osama bin Laden has not been found. His ideology has gained strength and he has gained recruits from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. He achieved his objective of getting US troops out of his own country Saudi Arabia and has gravely damaged his enemy the US financially, in casualties and in reputation. While the US and UK are immersed in their wars their economies are collapsing while China, India and other Asian countries are busily developing their economies. This is not Obama’s “right” war. It is the wrong war.

More plausible explanations that have been advanced are:

The US wants to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a militarily strategic area near the oilfields, Russia, China, etc. The US wants bases there as part of its global dominance plan
The US covets Afghanistan’s oil and mineral resources. (Their geologists might know something that we do not. China recently made a copper mining deal there)
The US did not want to appear impotent against terrorists as well as smokescreening the incompetence of its security organizations and their in-fighting
The US needed to give NATO and US bases in Europe a reason to exist following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The US now controls NATO and, through its permanent bases and subverted politicians, controls European relationships with Russia and Europe itself.

Any or all of these are more plausible reasons for the US occupation of Afghanistan but none is a reason why UK soldiers should be prepared to kill and be killed there.

The problem is that the US is following its usual pattern of intervention and installing a puppet government as it did in Iran [in 1953] and Iraq. It has constructed massive bases there and as in Iraq, clearly has no intention of ever leaving, whatever its reasons.

What is extraordinary and deeply worrying is that our military leaders are now making the political case for aggressive warfare, in the UK echoing our politicians. In the US General McChrystal bullies the Obama administration by actively publicizing his personal views. This is because NATO is now a political organization. In permitting this, US and European politicians are in process of losing control of their armed forces. In the UK it is also because our politicians are such liars that no-one believes them. They need backup.

The traditional role of our armed services is that they are subject to political control at all times. That was the position when Anthony Blair and a Parliament comprised mainly of fools and traitors ordered them to invade Iraq. At that time, on 10 March 2003, the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, asked the attorney-general for an unambiguous assurance in writing that the war was legal. He was wise and absolutely correct to do so. He received from Peter Goldsmith, whose Jewish tribal interests were with Israel and the United States, a false assurance that the war was legal. It is now well established that the Iraq war was illegal. Anyone who chooses can read United Nations Resolution 1441, on which Jack Straw sold the war and Peter Goldsmith based his opinion, for himself. The reader will find not only no authorization for war but statements that this resolution gives neither authorization nor automaticity for war. It is also established that the weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam Hussein was supposed to have, as the reason for war, did not exist. Goldsmith and Straw were liars and involved the UK and our armed forces in war crimes. That is the state of our armed forces’ reputation.

At the present time it is not the place of the UK chiefs of defence staff to sell the Afghanistan war or any war to the public. It is their job to defend the country and to ensure that they do so within the Nuremberg principles and the Geneva Conventions, which are part of UK law. That is not what they are doing, which is why they have had such difficulty over eight years in “explaining” what is being done in Afghanistan. In adopting this politicized position the UK chiefs of defence staff are open to accusations of war crimes. All the evidence is that the war on Afghanistan is a war of aggression. The “insurgency” is the fight of the Pashtun and other Afghans to defend their country from invasion, as is their right. There is no case against them.

The Afghanistan war is lost, both in law and in the field. US and NATO politicians and services chiefs cannot recognize reality. Over eight years, Afghan mujahideen (freedom fighters) have fought the “most powerful alliance in the world” into retreat with rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and home-made explosive devices. The argument is over. Even if it should be possible to overwhelm the poverty-stricken, poorly armed mujahideen by massively reinforcing the mechanized, hi-tech armies of the US and Europe, it would now prove nothing – except the failure of humanity in those belligerent countries, law having already failed. The mujahideen have won the field. The world has seen and knows it.

It is true that the Taliban were dismal when in government to our way of thinking – but not to theirs. From public information they are no worse than the corrupt puppet Karzai government that the US has installed. If we are to convince Afghans of our values it will not be by shooting them. As I have said previously, the only way forward is by negotiation and a programme of economic development. It is time to get on with it.

The British chiefs of defence staff have a brief window in which to act with honour: cite the Nuremberg Principles and bring the UK armies home. Once public disgust reaches the point that even our corrupt, US-subverted politicians see no alternative, that opportunity will have gone.

Christopher King is a retired consultant and lecturer in management and marketing. He lives in London, UK.

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