Afghanistan: Ten reasons to resist By Courage to Resist.
- Like Iraq, it is also illegal
- No military solution to terrorism
- Funds used for war are needed at home
- Civilian casualties are not acceptable
- War is not good for women in Afghanistan
- Support the troops: Bring them home now
- Torture and human rights abuses
- Climate change and resource wars
- War destabilizes Afghanistan and the region
- Respect Afghani self-determination; No to global military intervention
1- Like Iraq, it is also illegal
According to international law experts, the invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan is as illegal as the US presence in Iraq. The United Nations Charter mandates that military force against another country is only justified when used in self-defense or authorized by the UN Security Council. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, President George W Bush sought an authorization from the UN Security Council to use military force in Afghanistan. The UN resolutions that were passed in response—resolutions 1368 and 1373—never actually authorized military force, but rather, authorized the criminalization and prevention of terrorist activities. Contrary to popular perception, the Bush Administration unfolded an open-ended military operation in Afghanistan with no legal justification for doing so. The administration of Barack Obama is building on this flawed foundation in its continuance and escalation of the war.
“The invasion of Afghanistan was not legitimate self-defense under article 51 of the UN charter because the attacks on September 11, 2001 were criminal attacks, not “armed attacks” by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. In fact, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.”
—Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild
2- No military solution to terrorism
There can be no military solution to terrorism. This is because “terrorism” is a tactic that is not tied to any specific place. By pursuing the ever-elusive “terrorist” enemy, the US has waged an open-ended war of attrition in Afghanistan. This occupation breeds the discontent that gives rise to “terrorism” in the first place and has had the effect of bringing forward local opposition to the occupation.
If the US and its NATO allies are truly serious about diminishing the threat of terrorism and helping the people of Afghanistan build a better society, there must be commitment to building infrastructure, not destroying it. The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 43 years. If the billions spent on death and destruction were spent on building medical clinics, schools, community centers, and supporting small businesses and farmers, the quality of life in Afghanistan could improve tremendously in a short amount of time. The Taliban forces and warlords—seen by many Afghanis as a “last resort”—would lose much of their support.
“The solution is political, not military. And it lies in the region, not in Washington or Brussels.”
—Tariq Ali, author
3 – Funds used for war are needed at home
President Obama has inherited a major global financial crisis—the worst since World War II. The unemployment rate is the highest since the government started keeping track in 1976. Tens of millions of workers live in daily dread of being the next to be laid off. Two and half million homes are projected to be foreclosed on in 2009 alone.
The US government is wasting billions of dollars on open-ended wars overseas instead of tending to problems in our own backyard. To date, the Congress has allocated $915 billion toward the wars in Iraq ($687 billion) and Afghanistan ($228 billion).
That amount does not include, among other things, the cost of borrowing the money to pay for the war, lost productivity, higher oil prices and the cost of health care for veterans. Include those related expenses, and the total cost through 2009 for Afghanistan alone is $864 billion. For both occupation wars, its $2.17 trillion!
On our current course, we will end up spending $3.4 trillion within a few years—at a cost of over $11,000 for each person living in the US!
It is past time that we put those resources towards solving our growing problems here at home, including housing, healthcare, education, and food scarcity. War spending will not lift the U.S. out of the current economic stagnation.
4 – Civilian casualties are not acceptable
Since the Gulf War, the US media has spent an inordinate amount of time covering state-of-the-art “smart” and “precision” weaponry when discussing war. This same hype is now being applied to the US military’s use of unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to watch and attack targets in Afghanistan by the Cessna-size Predators and the larger and more heavily armed Reapers. These unmanned drones are usually remotely controlled from airbases in the US.
The promise is that these weapons will minimize civilian casualties in war zones. However, the reality is that civilian casualties rose 40% in 2008 according to a UN report. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007, according to a September 2008 report by Human Rights Watch. On May 4, 2009, over one hundred civilians were killed by a U.S. airstrike in Farah province. Recently the US military has admitted errors, but drone attacks continue. Thousands of non-combatant Afghanis have been killed, but reliable statistics are non-existent.
“As the conflict has intensified, it is taking an increasingly heavy toll on civilians.”
—U.N. Report by The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), February 2009
“Five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, [The Afghan people] cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power.”
—Afghan President Hamid Karzai, 60 Minutes interview. October 28, 2007
5 – War is not good for women in Afghanistan
We have been told that the initial invasion, continued presence, and escalation of foreign troops in Afghanistan are needed to “protect” Afghani women and girls. However, women in Afghanistan have endured oppression and mistreatment at the hands of the Taliban, the current government, and by foreign occupiers.
Women have had their families torn apart by war and are themselves killed by military violence. The U.S. has been guilty of arming warlords and armed militias in its fight against the Taliban, contributing to unstable conditions which breed violence against women and children. The increased presence of foreign troops has caused sex trafficking of young girls, prostitution, and rape to skyrocket.
Meanwhile, the US hypocritically supports regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar that have similar repressive policies towards women as exist in Afghanistan.
“Self-immolation, rape and abduction of women and children has no parallel in the history of Afghanistan…the US government has no and will not have any genuine concern for the condition of freedom, democracy and women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
—Revolutionary Women of Afghanistan. October 7, 2008 statement
“It’s doubtful whether America’s foreign policy has ever had the welfare of Afghan women at heart… In most parts of the world, highly militarized societies in almost every instance lead to bad results for women. The security of women is not improved and in many instances it actually becomes worse.”
—Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women
6 – Support the Troops: Bring them home now
All branches of the Armed Services fighting the “Global War on Terror” are now stretched extremely thin. Units and individuals who have endured three or four deployments in Iraq are now being ordered to Afghanistan.
Over 750 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far. About 2,500 have been seriously wounded. Casualties have steadily increased since 2004.
In February 2009, the US Army reported the highest level of suicides among soldiers (in 2008) since it began tracking suicides 28 years ago. In May 2009, Fort Campbell took the unprecedented step of shutting down operations for three days to address the issue of mental health.
When soldiers are finally released from the military, care is often woefully inadequate to address both physical and mental health needs. The troops who refuse to fight the war in Afghanistan are at the forefront of ranks swelled with discontented men and women who see no real justification for endless war and occupations.
“There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect.”
—US Army Spc Victor Agosto who refused to deploy to Afghanistan in May 2009
“Iraq Veterans Against the War calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces in Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people, and supports all troops and veterans working towards those ends.”
—Iraq Veterans Against the War. March 6, 2009 resolution
7 – Torture and human rights abuses in Afghanistan
The use of torture and “enhanced interrogation” methods by US forces in Afghanistan—all clearly outlawed by the Geneva Convention—has been well documented. The most infamous torture site in Afghanistan is the US Bagram Air Base.
“The investigative file on Bagram…showed that the mistreatment of prisoners was routine: shackling them to the ceilings of their cells, depriving them of sleep, kicking and hitting them, sexually humiliating them and threatening them with guard dogs—the very same behavior later repeated in Iraq.”
—Editorial of the New York Times. May 23, 2005
In detailing one of the documented cases of an Afghan detainee, Mr. Dilawar, being tortured to death by US soldiers, the New York Times reported:
“A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling…It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.”
In 2005, eight men being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba separately gave their lawyers “consistent accounts” of being tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan at various periods from 2002 to 2004. Prisoners reported being arrested in various countries, and being flown to Afghanistan where they were held in a secret facility. A report released by Human Rights Watch said that the detainees called the place the “prison of darkness,” and that they said they were chained to walls, deprived of food and drinking water, and kept in total darkness with loud rap or heavy metal music blaring for weeks at a time.
Obama’s proclaimed intent to close down the Guantanamo Bay prisons for its role in torture and human rights abuses has garnered much attention. However, Bagram Air Force base has received little attention and the US government does not intend to close it any time soon.
“No one, no matter their alleged crime, should be held in secret prisons or subjected to torture.”
—John Sifton, Human Rights Watch
8 – Climate change and resource wars
With climate change one of the most serious problems facing our planet—contributing to increased incidence of floods, famines, and droughts—fighting resource wars will not address the underlining issues but further polarize the world’s peoples.
Iraq Veterans Against the War have framed the Afghanistan War in terms of its strategic importance to the US drive for control of a resource-rich region: “a primary motivation for the prolonged occupation of Afghanistan is competition between the U.S., Russia and China for control of oil and natural gas resources in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.”
Researchers have found that for the past 500 years, climate change and conflict have been closely linked. Many experts predict that current climate trends are again likely to result in widespread global unrest and conflict in the near future. Yet instead of finding real solutions, our government is on target to spend $3.4 trillion directly contributing to the unrest.
“The US military is the largest single consumer of petroleum in the country, so as the military grows, so does addiction to fossil fuels.”
—No War No Warming network
9 – War destabilizes Afghanistan and the region
According to UN Refugee Agency, 2.1 million Afghan refugees were reported in 72 asylum countries, making Afghanistan the largest country of origin of refugees. There are over 900,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan as well. Together, these two statistics represent approximately 10% of the entire population. Dire conditions and lack of gainful employment are forcing many Afghans to relocate to Iran and Pakistan in search of work.
Political destabilization and displacement of civilian populations is aggravated by the US presence in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Though lip service is given to the goal of bettering the conditions for Afghan civilians, actual monies spent on reconstruction are meager and inadequate. The RAND Corporation, a US government-funded think tank, estimates that $100 per capita is the minimum required to stabilize a country evolving out of war. However, Afghanistan received only $57 per capita in the key years of 2001-2003.
The US both supported and helped develop the opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 80’s by funding training camps for the present home-grown Afghani oppressors and the development of the poppy trade as a resource to keep them funded. Backing the Afghani Karzai government today amounts to nothing more than supporting one group of warlords over the others. This has always been the preferred strategy of the US in the region.
The invasion of Afghanistan has increased overall instability in the Middle East, with tension between the US and Iran increasing, and increased militarization of the Pakistani border.
“Afghanistan has seen wave after wave of its citizens leave over the decades, fleeing the successive wars and conflicts in the country. Many had returned following the fall of the Taliban, but now economic and climatic conditions are forcing them to depart again.”
—Shah Reza Munshizada, Institute for War and Peace Reporting
10 – Respect Afghani self-determination; No to global military intervention
There is wide consensus that in order to build true stability in a country, populations must be given sufficient resources and have a level of confidence in the system of governance. This formula cannot be imposed on a country by a foreign occupying power. Afghanistan’s people must have the right of self-determination and be free to forge a society on its own terms. The war in Afghanistan is part of a trend of unwanted global military intervention by the US.
Even those who have carried out these policies see their inherent flaws and risks for US Empire. Milton Beardon, former CIA chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 1989 said in 2001 of the then-nascent U.S. war in Afghanistan: “The first engagement in the new war on terrorism—with Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan—poses severe challenges for the United States. Rooting out bin Ladin’s network will require military success in a country that the Soviet Union could not conquer in ten years of trying, as well as support from unstable surrounding nations. Washington may be tempted to try to oust the Taliban regime, but doing so could rekindle Afghanistan’s brutal civil war. The United States must proceed with caution—or end up on the ash heap of Afghan history.” Eight years later, this prediction of doom for the US seems a possibility.
“By resisting the war and occupation of Afghanistan, we create the opportunity for a national dialogue on the role of militarism in shaping US foreign policy. Without that, we will be marching for peace for eternity.”
—Judith Le Blanc, United for Peace and Justice Organizing Coordinator