[Reader-list] Robert Fisk:Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?
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Wed Oct 3 21:20:38 IST 2001
Robert Fisk: Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?
The Independent 03 October 2001
"America's New War," is what they call it on CNN. And of
course, as usual, they've got it wrong. Because in our desire to
"bring to justice" let's remember those words in the coming
days the vicious men who planned the crimes against
humanity in New York and Washington last month, we're hiring
some well-known rapists and murderers to work for us.
Yes, it's an old war, a dreary routine that we've seen employed
around the world for the past three decades. In Vietnam, the
Americans wanted to avoid further casualties; so they re-armed
and re-trained the South Vietnamese army to be their
foot-soldiers. In southern Lebanon, the Israelis used their
Lebanese militia thugs to combat the Palestinians and the
Hizbollah. The Phalange and the so-called "South Lebanon
Army" were supposed to be Israel's foot-soldiers. They failed,
but that is in the nature of wars-by-proxy. In Kosovo, we kept
our well-armed Nato troops safely out of harm's way while the
KLA acted as our foot-soldiers.
And now, without a blush or a swallow of embarrassment, we're
about to sign up the so-called "Northern Alliance" in
Afghanistan. America's newspapers are saying without a hint
of irony that they, too, will be our "foot-soldiers" in our war to
hunt down/bring to justice/smoke out/eradicate/liquidate
Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. US officials who know full
well the whole bloody, rapacious track record of the killers in
the "Alliance" are suggesting in good faith that these are the
men who will help us bring democracy to Afghanistan and drive
the Taliban and the terrorists out of the country. In fact, we're
ready to hire one gang of terrorists our terrorists to rid
ourselves of another gang of terrorists. What, I wonder, would
the dead of New York and Washington think of this?
But first, let's keep the record straight. The atrocities of 11
September were a crime against humanity. The evil men who
planned this mass-murder should (repeat: should) be brought
to justice. And if that means the end of the Taliban with their
limb-chopping and execution of women and their repressive,
obscurantist Saudi-style "justice" fair enough. The Northern
Alliance, the confederacy of warlords, patriots, rapists and
torturers who control a northern sliver of Afghanistan, have very
definitely not (repeat: not) massacred more than 7,000
innocent civilians in the United States. No, the murderers
among them have done their massacres on home turf, in
Afghanistan. Just like the Taliban.
Even as the World Trade Centre collapsed in blood and dust,
the world mourned the assassination of Ahmed Shah Masood,
the courageous and patriotic Lion of Panjshir whose leadership
of the Northern Alliance remained the one obstacle to overall
Taliban power. Perhaps he was murdered in advance of the
slaughter in America, to emasculate America's potential allies
in advance of US retaliation. Either way, his proconsulship
allowed us to forget the gangs he led.
It permitted us, for example, to ignore Abdul Rashid Dustum,
one of the most powerful Alliance gangsters, whose men looted
and raped their way through the suburbs of Kabul in the
Nineties. They chose girls for forced marriages, murdered their
families, all under the eyes of Masood. Dustum had a habit of
changing sides, joining the Taliban for bribes and indulging in
massacres alongside the Wahhabi gangsters who formed the
government of Afghanistan, then returning to the Alliance
Then there's Rasoul Sayaf, a Pashtun who originally ran the
"Islamic Union for the Freedom of Afghanistan", but whose
gunmen tortured Shia families and used their women as sex
slaves in a series of human rights abuses between 1992 and
1996. Sure, he's just one of 15 leaders in the Alliance, but the
terrified people of Kabul are chilled to the bone at the thought
that these criminals are to be among America's new
Urged on by the Americans, the Alliance boys have been
meeting with the elderly and sick ex-King Mohamed Zahir
Shah, whose claim to have no interest in the monarchy is
almost certainly honourable but whose ambitious grandson
may have other plans for Afghanistan. A "loya jerga", we are
told, will bring together alll tribal groups to elect a transitional
government after the formation of a "Supreme Council for the
National Unity of Afghanistan". And the old king will be
freighted in as a symbol of national unity, a reminder of the
good old days before democracy collapsed and communism
destroyed the country. And we'll have to forget that King Zahir
Shah though personally likeable, and a saint compared to the
Taliban was no great democrat.
What Afghanistan needs is an international force not a bunch
of ethnic gangs steeped in blood to re-establish some kind of
order. It doesn't have to be a UN force, but it could have
Western troops and should be supported by surrounding
Muslim nations though, please God, not the Saudis and
able to restore roads, food supplies and telecommunications.
There are still well-educated academics and civil servants
inAfghanistan who could help to re-establish the infrastructure
of government. In this context, the old king might just be a
temporary symbol of unity before a genuinely inter-ethnic
government could be created.
But that's not what we're planning. More than 7,000 innocents
have been murdered in the USA, and the two million Afghans
who have been killed since 1980 don't amount to a hill of beans
beside that. Whether or not we send in humanitarian aid, we're
pouring more weapons into this starving land, to arm a bunch of
gangsters in the hope they'll destroy the Taliban and let us
grab bin Laden cost-free.
I have a dark premonition about all this. The "Northern Alliance"
will work for us. They'll die for us. And, while they're doing that,
we'll try to split the Taliban and cut a deal with their less
murderous cronies, offering them a seat in a future government
alongside their Alliance enemies. The other Taliban the guys
who won't take the Queen's shilling or Mr Bush's dollar will
snipe at our men from the mountainside and shoot at our jets
and threaten more attacks on the West, with or without bin
And at some point always supposing we've installed a puppet
government to our liking in Kabul the Alliance will fall apart
and turn against its ethnic enemies or, if we should still be
around, against us. Because the Alliance knows that we're not
giving them money and guns because we love Afghanistan, or
because we want to bring peace to the land, or because we are
particularly interested in establishing democracy in south-west
Asia. The West is demonstrating its largesse because it wants
to destroy America's enemies.
Just remember what happened in 1980 when we backed the
brave, ruthless, cruel mujahedin against the Soviet Union. We
gave them money and weapons and promised them political
support once the Russians left. There was much talk, I recall,
of "loya jergas", and even a proposal that the then less elderly
king might be trucked back to Afghanistan. And now this is
exactly what we are offering once again.
And, dare I ask, how many bin Ladens are serving now among
our new and willing foot-soldiers?
America's "new war", indeed.
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