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The record on U.S. war aims does not look good. If we use the Gulf War as a recent analogy of an ambiguous war aim, we can see how far reaching, unintended, and unforeseeable the consequences can extend: a decade since April 7th 1991 approximately 5,000 Iraqi children have died on average per month due to preventable and treatable diseases as well as malnutrition and starvation. [According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization)] I doubt, or I should say, I would rather not believe that this outcome was intended. No government in their right collective-mind would endorse such an atrocity on human existence, but although it’s not supported; it is justified. An example of this would be the following: In an interview with Leslie Stahl of CBS on May 11, 1996, U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked whether the over half a million children killed by the sanctions were "worth it." Her response was: "It’s a hard choice, but I think, we, think, it’s worth it."
The war aims in retaliation for Sept. 11th have transmuted faster than in 1991. With no firm proof, (most of it being circumstantial) the Bush Administration has fingered Mr. Bin Laden, just as Clinton did in 1998 after the U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, but unlike Clinton, the Bush Administration is seeking a comprehensive solution. Understandable, considering the death toll in NYC and D.C.
The White House right away approached Pakistan with helping in the "war effort". Of course Pakistan agreed to join the alliance, realizing immediately the fragility of the Taliban regime. However, even after the fact that the U.S. has lifted some sanctions and promises to lift more as well as providing an aid-package and prompting the IMF to grant loans to Pakistan, the war aims have shifted: The US will not be content with just Bin Laden, it now requires the utter demise of the Taliban. The New York Times on Oct. 3rd states, (if you read very carefully) that the Pentagon is rethinking its Pakistan strategy, mainly because of the shaky political situation in Pakistan.
Next, the U.S. brings out old ex-King, Zahir Shah from his Roman suburb and some old players in the Northern Alliance. I’ve wondered why multiple groups are eager to get Shah back in power; partly because as a monarch he can bestow titles and fortune, but also, I just learned, there is a little thing called the Turkmenistan-Pakistan natural gas pipeline.
Short Background of Northern Alliance
The roots of the Northern Alliance go back as far as the defection of General Dostam, (with his Communist Uzbek militia) from Najibullah’s side in 1992. So setting the stage for the Northern Alliance musical chairs that would be played for the power seat to this day. First with Hikmatyar warring with Rabbani, (whose troops were commanded by the late Masood who used to work with Dostam) then in 1994 Hikmatyar formed an alliance with Dostam and from there it continues: Hikmatyar and Dostam, then with Masood, then secretly with Rabbani in the background – all while the Taliban began consolidating power, eventually taking Kabul. Let’s not confuse ourselves. Just how massive the pain, which was inflicted on the Afghan people by the Northern Alliance, should be noted. In 1997, Dostam’s forces ruthlessly bombed Kabul and Masood’s forces continued to do so, even on Sept. 12th in reprisal for Masood’s assassination three days earlier. Anyone interested in this may study Amnesty International’s reports published in 1995 on major abuses by Rabbani, Hikmatyar, and Dostam: 1.) Afghanistan: International Responsibility for Human Rights Disaster [AI Index ASA 11/09/95] and 2.) Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Catastrophe [AI Index ASA 11/03/95]. Let’s hope that history is not re-written by the powerful to satisfy their need for a reasonable alternative to the loss of control over the Taliban.
With this background in view, we can see that the U.S. war aims seem extremely unfocused; to overthrow one corrupt regime with another more friendly to U.S. demands. I simply do not believe that the Northern Alliance is at least better than the Taliban.
Alternatives then? Well many reasonable and moderate Afghans now live in New Delhi and do not wish to return their children to such an abomination of a country. One very important point then, is the beleaguered Afghan refugee population. They are slightly better off, (monetarily) than most other Afghan citizens as can be told from the fact that they could afford passage across the boarder. Organized refugee groups, like RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan), the Afghan Women’s Network, and other people’s organizations play a very important role. The ideas they introduce into the refugee camps have the possibility of changing a nation, if we can just stabilize Afghanistan as a country long enough for more progressive ideas to take hold in the populace.
These people aren’t party to the corrupt ideas coming out of the gatherings of the ex-king’s family and the Northern Alliance to reap the benefit of this fruitfully terrible situation with profits from natural gas pipelines that benefit only the Government and Unocal and Texaco. Benefits from pipelines are only a terrible thing when they’re exploited; rather, let’s work them into a Democratic institution (if not Democratic, than at least some form of government that helps the majority of the people and not just the ruling party as you find in Saudi Arabia), and start building on Afghanistan’s productive base.