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William Rivers Pitt: The Other War

The Other War

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 08 September 2006

Most people in the United States haven't given a moment's thought to the war in Afghanistan in a very long time. That war is over, we are told, and we won. The Taliban was routed, and al Qaeda lost a safe haven. Seventy-four families have had a different experience, however. Seventy-four families have received the awful notification since the beginning of 2006, telling them their child was killed in Afghanistan. 333 American soldiers have died there since we first invaded.

The war in Afghanistan, as it turns out, is far from over.

On September 20, 2001, nine days after the attacks on Washington and New York, George W. Bush made a promise to the American people. "We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest," said Bush. "And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

Tough talk, right? These sentiments have been augmented ad nauseam, through the years and into this last week, with Bush ramming the rods in an attempt to remind people that only his administration and its Republican Congressional allies can protect us.

At almost the exact moment during this past week that Bush was once again hammering home his terrorism talking points, a so-called ally in the War on Terror was cutting a deal with the Taliban. "In a move that some say appears 'a total capitulation' to pro-Taliban forces," reports the Christian Science Monitor, "Pakistan signed a peace deal with tribal leaders in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan Tuesday, and is withdrawing military forces in exchange for promises that militant tribal groups there will not engage in terrorist activities."

The apparent surrender of Pakistan to the Taliban signals a dire turn of events for the region. Taliban forces will now feel emboldened to expand their reach and power in Afghanistan, which will further endanger American and international forces there.

Even before this peace deal was cut, the Taliban was flexing its muscles. "The Taliban have regained control over the southern half of Afghanistan and their frontline is advancing daily," reported the Inter Press News Agency. "The report on the reconstruction of Afghanistan marking the fifth anniversary of 9/11 is based on extensive field research in the critical provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Herat and Nangarhar. 'The Taliban frontline now cuts halfway through the country, encompassing all of the southern provinces,' the Senlis Council report says. The Senlis Council is an international policy think tank with offices in Kabul, London, Paris and Brussels."

The Senlis report also states that "A humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty has gripped the south of the country," and blames "The U.S. and UK-led failed counter-narcotics and military policies" for this situation. Opium production in Afghanistan has increased 60% this year. A record crop of 6,100 tons of opium was harvested this year, amounting to 610 tons of heroin. This amount overtops global demand for heroin by a full third.

"Officials warned that the illicit trade is undermining the Afghan government," reports the Associated Press, "which is under attack by Islamic militants that a U.S.-led offensive helped drive from power in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida bases. The bulk of the opium increase was in lawless Helmand province, where cultivation rose 162 percent and accounted for 42 percent of the Afghan crop. The province has been wracked by the surge in attacks by Taliban-led militants that has produced the worst fighting in five years."

So, to recap: Bush promised us that not only terrorists, but any nation that aids terrorists, would feel America's wrath. Less than five years after the invasion of Afghanistan, that nation is being overrun once again by the Taliban. Their heroin production has reached historic peaks, thus leaving them flush with capital. Pakistan, meanwhile, enjoys ally status with the United States while cutting peace deals with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden, by the way, remains alive and free, and is far safer now that Pakistan has folded its cards.

That the Bush administration pretends it has even a tiny handle on the wars it has unleashed, in Afghanistan and Iraq, is almost beyond comprehension. The United States, thanks to their fuzzy-minded leadership, is presently losing two wars at the same time. Everyone knows matters are dire in Iraq. Soon now, the unraveling situation in Afghanistan will begin making banner headlines. The body counts will rise. At some point soon, as with Iraq, the rhetoric from the White House will once again transmogrify from "Mission Accomplished" to "Stay the Course."

But then again, there is an up-side to all this. The American economy is faltering, after all, while Afghan heroin production is exploding. What good is an economic downturn without a good supply of smack?

Thank you, Mr. Bush.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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