Massachusetts Daily Collegian

On the war in Afghanistan

By Kevin Gallagher

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This column is the second in a two-part series. To see part one, go here.

Taliban propaganda, which can be viewed on websites like YouTube.com and MEMRITV’s coverage of Al Jazeera, has proven effective. Taking cues from al-Qaeda’s American-born media advisor, Adam Gadahn, Taliban-produced videos are candid and sharply delineate ideological superiority. They also feature attacks on American targets and interviews with mujahedeen (Afghani rebels) whose morale could not be higher. They are fighting a war in ideal conditions; on their own turf, with the support of a majority Muslim population against a perceived occupier. The reels showed Taliban fighters taking cover from U.S. airplanes underneath the clouds that cover mountainous regions, declaring the utter defeat and failure of the North American Treaty Organization in all its military operations. They boast of cutting off supply routes to American bases, deflect charges of killing innocent civilians back on the enemy, and present the destruction of 70-80 trucks and cars in a NATO supply convoy.

Not many people paid attention to the headlines when at the beginning of 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency lost some of its most trusted assets in the War on Terror to a single Pakistani suicide bomber, including at least seven officers at Forward Operating Base Chapman. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for a successful operation, which turned the agent double. While in America, the fallen were praised as patriots and honored for their invaluable work done close to the enemy. Unfortunately, there was a loss of high-value intelligence. This was a particularly embarrassing incidence of “blowback.” This is the same force that lays claim to the consensus that in the 1980s the CIA funded Osama Bin Laden and his training camp (originally called Maktab al-Khidamat) MAK recruited young Muslims to fight in the jihad against Soviet interests in Afghanistan. When Bin Laden turned against the U.S., there was a unit formed which tracked him for years. Clinton regretted not authorizing a chance to terminate him, which he admitted was within his scope. Compounded with suspicion that we had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the vast conspiracy theories surrounding that date, the given reasons for going to war were questionable in the first place.

Pentagon insiders will tell you that the war is “hard work,” and U.S. propaganda throughout the last decade has shown us hopeful images of soldiers extending help and necessities to cautious villagers. Yet not even Pakistan’s leaders are willing to take the political suicide that equals collaborating with the U.S. They’ve already incurred a heavy cost ($35 billion) with their own efforts in the War on Terror, which is resented by the populace. Moreover, Pakistan values the Taliban as a proxy against India, which it perceives as a stronger regional influence than the U.S.

One wonders why after decades of containment in the Cold War and failed misadventures like Mogadishu and Lebanon, how we still haven’t learned our lesson about being the world‘s policeman. Internationally, America’s diplomatic credibility, currency and relevance are on the decline. Countries like China, India and Japan are poised to challenge our geopolitical economic influence. You could say we got too full of ourselves with this noble yet insane notion of exporting freedom and democracy. I was once a believer in it myself, which was easy until I was shown where the moral high ground lay. Some spent the decade brooding on whether the West could coexist peacefully on Earth with Islam. With Afghanistan we will merely be taking our seat next to the Soviet Union in the graveyard of empires. It’s another nail in the coffin of the corpse of the American century and U.S. neo-imperial global influence.

My No. 1 grievance is that the media failed to do its job to sway popular opinion against the war and represent the views of Americans to the politicians. Given our brutal reactionary need for retaliation, we bent over for the bureaucrats and war industries to take blood in the aftermath of 9/11. We invaded a sovereign country (albeit one with a poor reputation on human rights), without any understanding of warlords and tribal affiliations, literacy or local problems. It was foolish to go to war with an unstable country, with difficult terrain, little history of effective governance, and without a formal declaration. If you were against it at the time, you were called unpatriotic and publicly shamed. Now it is taken for granted that the cause is lost.

So what does it all mean for the threat of al-Qaeda, who is supposedly at war with us and could attack within the U.S. at any minute? Well, we wouldn’t have had that problem if not for various factors like: the presence of Western soldiers on the Muslim “holy lands” in the Gulf War, our massive military support of Israel and countless CIA-sponsored coups and dictatorship regimes, not to mention the very pro-Mujahedeen anti-Soviet intelligence operations that created Bin Laden. History isn’t just there people, it’s meant to be learned from.

Kevin Gallagher is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

2 Comments

2 Responses to “On the war in Afghanistan”

  1. Nitpick on September 29th, 2010 11:00 am

    Minor correction: NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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