Saturday, 1 September 2012

Young men are still dying in Afghanistan

A three-part documentary, Our War, currently showing on BBC3, has been described as “powerful” and “shocking”. To be honest, those words don’t do it justice.

The programme graphically tells the story of British soldiers serving in Afghanistan and uses uncensored footage filmed by the soldiers themselves using helmet cameras and mobile phones. The first in the series centred on an operation called Kick Hornet’s Nest, in which the young soldiers were sent into hostile territory with the explicit intention of drawing attacks from the Taliban. The reason given by the military top brass for putting the young men in such danger was that the Taliban had to be diverted from another area so repairs could be carried out to a road.

Two soldiers, both in their twenties, died while taking part in operation Kick Hornet’s Nest – still, the road was repaired.

The two soldiers who gave their lives for a stretch of dusty road would have been at primary school when the conflict in Afghanistan started in October 2001. Before being sent to the country, it is unlikely they or their fellow soldiers could have pointed to Afghanistan on a map. Be honest, could you?

In the 11 years since Britain formed part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the invasion of Afghanistan, 385 members of our armed services have been killed by enemy action. A further 35 people have died as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, taking the total loss of life to 425 (so far).

On our news bulletins we also regularly hear of soldiers being injured in action. If ever a word was entirely inappropriate it is the use of ‘injured’ to describe what can happen to soldiers in a fire-fight or rocket attack. A footballer twisting his ankle might be injured, but the word doesn’t come close to describing the aftermath of a soldier taking the impact of a grenade. Even ‘wounded’ does not tell the full story. In addition to the 425 young service personnel who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, 46 have had limbs amputated in the past year, with 18 of them requiring multiple amputations.

So, remind me, why are we there? What is the reason so many young British men are paying such a heavy price?

The ‘official’ reason for the invasion of Afghanistan, primarily by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, in October 2001 was to dismantle al Qaeda terrorist training camps, which were blamed for the previous month’s attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and to remove from power the Taliban regime, which imposed strict laws on the population, based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic teaching. The Americans and British prefer to describe it as bringing democracy to Afghanistan.

In reality, the military action in Afghanistan is to pave the way for the creation of a Central Asian pipeline, bringing oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to the west. Young British soldiers are giving their lives and limbs so American oil companies can exploit the mineral wealth of the Caspian basin and rack-up billions-of-dollars in profit.

Think that is just another conspiracy theory? Okay, let’s look at the facts.

By the time the invasion of Afghanistan was launched in October 2001, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorists had already moved across the border into Pakistan. It was in Pakistan he was finally tracked down and killed by the Americans.

Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of planes that took part in the 911 attacks were Saudi Arabian and had no links to Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was also a Saudi Arabian national. After he was killed by the Americans, three of bin Laden’s wives and their children left Pakistan and were granted residence in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Kingdom is ruled by an absolute monarch imposing Sharia, strict Islamic law. Since the country’s creation, no elections have ever been held and no political parties are permitted.

Two former US Senators who led inquiries into the 911 attacks have issued sworn statements indicating their belief that the government of Saudi Arabia may have been involved. Senator Bob Graham (Democrat – Florida) said, “I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia.” Bob Kerrey (Democrat – Nebraska) added, “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued.”

Saudi Arabia has the world’s second-largest oil reserves and the sixth-largest gas reserves. Crucially, the country is happy to sell its oil to America and Britain.

The same seemed to be the case with Afghanistan back in the period of 1997 to 2001. The Taliban regime was apparently prepared to allow an American oil company, UNOCAL (now part of Chevron), to run a pipeline across Afghanistan to take Caspian oil to the west. So far developed was the plan that, in December 1997, representatives of the ‘terrorist’ Taliban regime enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to Texas, home state of UNOCAL. The Governor of Texas at the time was former oil company executive George W Bush. The company in line to win the contract to actually build the pipeline across Afghanistan was American giant Haliburton. At the time, the Chief Executive Officer of Haliburton Corporation was Dick Cheney, later to be Vice President of America under George W Bush.

However, the great friendship between American corporate interest and the ‘terrorist’ regime of the Taliban began to break down, and by the time Bush and Cheney were in power in Washington, US officials were using the Pakistani secret service to relay messages to Afghanistan threatening military action. Following such a meeting in July 2001 – two-months before the 911 attacks - former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik is on record stating American officials had discussed military action to overthrow the Taliban, which would “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.”

In August 2001, Christina Rocca, Director of Asian Affairs at the US State Department, is reported to have met with the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, Pakistan, apparently in a last-ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. The meeting proved unsuccessful.

On September 11 2001 attacks were launched against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia. In response, the US administration of George W Bush and Dick Cheney launched the ‘war on terror’ by invading Afghanistan.

In March 2002, the Chicago Tribune reported an opinion piece from the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, which read, “If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”

Ma'ariv continued, “Osama bin Laden did not comprehend that his actions serve American interests… If I were a believer in conspiracy theory, I would think that bin Laden is an American agent. Not being one, I can only wonder at the coincidence.”

Afghanistan is not, and never has been, about democracy or waging a war on terror – it is solely about the capitalist pursuit of wealth. There should be no more young British men killed or maimed in the interests of American oil corporations.

Bring our troops home.

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