Tragic Afghanistan

The spring we all dream of resides somewhere in the mists of that promised future.  This is the birthright we demand so that we may reclaim our stolen humanity.  For too long have we endured this subhuman existence foisted upon us by these monstrous forces.  We will yet be able to celebrate the aerial ballet of the swallow, the ocean roar in a conch or the whisper of a butterfly.  And we will advance our spiritual evolution in this new millennium.

Our spring will come!

But for now Afghanistan is hurtling into the icy embrace of yet another winter.  The first frosty flakes tantalize initially but will soon be elbowed aside by the obliterating blizzards of the polar frontal depressions which will sweep southward across the Hindu Kush, transmuting all precious life into suspended animation, one month after the commencement of the bombardment.

Despite the rout of the Taliban a gargantuan humanitarian crisis still looms menacingly.  The political, military and ethnic upheavals ushered in by the victory of the Northern Alliance has compounded the dire threat of starvation of hundreds of thousands (mainly women and children) despite the fact that the food is eventually being trucked in.  Too much time has been cynically squandered by the abominable warmongers who have persisted with the bombing campaign despite pleas from the UN Food Programme and aid agencies.  Snowfalls are already blocking the treacherous mountain passes at higher altitudes, cutting off thousands of communities who have exhausted their food supplies.

But we will be spared the emotional inconvenience of witnessing all the catastrophic detail by our magnanimous mainstream media who will supply us with alternative entertainment and soothing disinformation fit for our station.

The victory of the Northern Alliance has re-opened deep wounds papered over since 1996 when 50,000 civilians were killed in their nightmarish onslaught on Kabul during the preceding 4 years.  The summary execution of 100 young Pakistani prisoners of war this week is a chilling reminder of their barbarism, which included pillage, rape, torture and public beheadings which occurred across large swaths of the country.  This leopard hasn’t changed its spots.  Is it possible to imagine the terror of people who witnessed Shia captives herded into metal shipping containers and fires lit around them, or 2,000 Taliban prisoners massacred and dumped into mass graves in Mazar-i-Sharif?

The blood is congealing on the hands of the leaders and their ilk in Washington and London who have orchestrated and choreographed the Northern Alliance ‘victory’ and one doubts whether their moral bankruptcy would allow of an infinitesimal sliver of Macbeth’s agony of conscience.  Their geopolitical designs have effectively factored out such banal considerations. The nimble footwork and designer spin-doctoring of these imperialist aggressors has fooled some of us, but the vast majority of the millions who have suffered under their yoke can see through these subterfuges.

As the dreamy mists disperse, the Mahatma’s hunched figure is silhouetted against a blazing sky, his gnarled knuckles clenching his trusty staff, he observes gravely:

“Peace is such a fragile thing.  It has to be nurtured with the greatest sensitivity and compassion.  It is usually the first casualty in such an atmosphere.  The rhythm of war is determined by a dialectic which can best be short-circuited by enlightened and committed civil society activism.”

The gravity of his demeanour seems to melt as his gaze alights onto the face of his beloved Raul who is reclining with feline ease against the trunk of a ghostly hardwood.

Why does Raul suddenly conjour up a vivid image of Che Guevara in days of yore:  the great revolutionary internationalist puffing nonchalantly at a Havana cigar, signature beret cocked at a rakish angle and his inscrutable gaze fixed on the enigmatic events?  Is it his irreverent and infectious humour?  Or is it because their roots can be traced to the same urban maelstrom of Argentina in the heady days of the 1930’s?

These thoughts are vanquished as he is coaxed by Gandhi, with ever-so-slight feigned reluctance, to rise and address the group:

“Raul, you are the munitions expert.  Would you care to tell us about the technological impediments to peace and bring us up to speed with the recent advances in military hardware?”

With patent relish for the soapbox our Argentinian wades into his discourse:

“We know all about the ‘smart bombs’ – we had grandstand seats for the CNN roadshow during the Gulf War.  Remember how we neglected our shoot-’em-up computer games during that period?  All those astonishingly accurate direct hits made us feel distinctly inadequate, eh!  But deep down we sensed that the strikes which went astray and pulverized hospitals, schools and civilian bomb shelters, were filtered out by the astute editors, as Gandhiji says, in deference to our sensibilities.  And maybe that’s why we’ve become so ho-hum during this current episode.

But a fairly new kid on the block is the cluster bomb.  This is bound to revive our flagging enthusiasm and brush the cobwebs from our dormant adrenaline rushes.  It cut its teeth in Laos and a few poorly reported ‘humanitarian’ interventions, but made a devastating reappearance in the bombardments of Iraq and Kosovo where it proved its dubious mettle.  Despite all the hype about it the British Ministry of Defence was forced to admit that 60% of the cluster bombs dropped by the RAF over Kosovo missed their target, frequently with devastating consequences for the innocents.  There is no reason to believe that it will be any different in Afghanistan.

Assurances were given by the Americans that this ‘war against terrorism’ would be different; that the carpet bombing of the Vietnam era would not be repeated.  But the world was sorely deceived:  Thousands of cluster bombs were dropped daily by B-52 bombers.  Each spews out 147 bomblets with armour-piercing capability.  Not only are they horrendously efficient ant-personnel weapons which have the propensity to decimate the civilian population who happen to be in the cross-hairs or beyond, but 10% of the bomblets ejected from a cluster bomb do not detonate on impact and lie in wait for the children who are attracted to these irresistible gaudy yellow toys, with catastrophic consequences.   Now innumerable schools, hospitals and farms are contaminated with unexploded bombs which are far more devastating than landmines.

In Laos millions of unexploded ordnance (UXO) units which litter the countryside are still killing civilians 30 years after the bombing and Afghanistan will certainly suffer the same fate.  This impoverished country will not have the resources to effect UXO clearance and the perpetrators wouldn’t bother, as history has shown in Indochina and elsewhere.

What sort of monster could design such vile weapons and deploy them despite having full knowledge of the consequences?

The other horrendous weapon is the Daisy Cutter bomb. This is the largest non-nuclear device which produces an enormous incendiary explosion effectively incinerating everything within a one kilometer radius.  This was utilized in Vietnam and the Gulf to clear minefields and has now been taken out of mothballs and is being used with devastating effect in Afghanistan.  The few survivors are invariably severely burnt and left psychologically scarred by this terrifying weapon.”

Raul’s expression takes on a hardness which deeply troubles his great friend.  He continues with unaccustomed gravity:

“The US has the greatest destructive military capacity of all time and a matching aptitude to kill, maim and terrorize on a gargantuan scale with consummate impunity.  This is compounded by the imperative to escalate the level of assault progressively if the objective is not achieved initially.  The goals they have set themselves are unrealistically and cynically unachievable: this coincides perfectly with their diabolical geopolitical agenda.  Their intention is to diversify the conflict and expand into other arenas to sustain the impetus of the current eruption of militarism.  Now that the Taliban has been overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the combined onslaught, the military machine will continue to demand a constant supply of opponents, preferably in escalating quantities.

An added tragedy is that military victories are powerful stimuli for new ambitions.”

“Exactly!”, a young girl with flaming eyes jumps up with a speed approaching escape velocity.

“The diabolical agenda now is to shift the theatre of war to Iraq and to greatly intensify the bombing.  And this despite the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths from the incessant Anglo-American bombing and the 500,000 children who have died as a result of malnutrition and lack of medical supplies following the imposition of the cynical embargo, the effects of exposure ionizing radiation from the depleted uranium which coated the amour-piercing shells during the Gulf War, and other atrocities.

There isn’t a shred of credible evidence implicating Saddam Hussein in the September 11 attacks, or that the anthrax spores originated in Iraq.  It is well known that the strain of anthrax isolated has been easily obtainable from laboratories across the US but not to be found in Iraq.  Nor is there incontrovertible evidence that they have chemical, biological or nuclear capability at present.

The war-mongering hawks in the US administration, from Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to the psychotic far right have increasingly been baying for blood.  There are calls now to escalate the attacks beyond bombardment to full-scale invasion – a development too horrible to contemplate.

But this degree of escalation isn’t even necessary if one understands the rationale for perpetuating the myth of the dire threat of Saddam.  If there is sufficient fear of his attacking countries like Saudi Arabia, the US will be assured of permanent military bases in the region and will be able to protect and extend her oil, economic and strategic interests.”

Quite flushed following her passionate tirade, she flops down, somewhat shaken by her spontaneous outburst.

If this is the winter of our discontent, it will be a powerful impetus for us to transcend the negativity and work towards making this world a better place.