Have we forgotten…the Afghan people?
The US war and occupation in Afghanistan, waged in revenge for the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, claimed the lives of more than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians. The country is littered with unexploded ordnance, which kills and injures unknowing adult and child civilians as they move through their territory. The war has also forced six million Afghans to flee their homes, nearly half of them as refugees to other countries.
None of this tragedy of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan has been in our media. Could it be because at the start of the war, George W. Bush advised Americans to “go shopping” and forget about his war in a poor, isolated, non-Western country?
During this war, the United States poured money into Afghanistan, money that was paid to the oligarchs within the regimes that our government supported, as well as to military contractors, civilian contractors and lords American war fighters, for which there is little to show. Our government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded, in his March 2021 assessment of the two-decade war, that much of (U.S.) spending has been “woefully disconnected at best, and at worst delusional” and much of it went to bribery and corruption by American and Afghan profiteers.
When the United States fled Afghanistan seven months ago, most of the foreign funding the country depended on for its GDP and 75% of its public funding also left. According to the UN, nearly 95% of Afghans are malnourished and children are extremely vulnerable to acute starvation. An estimated 13,000 newborns have died of malnutrition and hunger-related illnesses since January 2022.
After fleeing the country, the United States quickly adopted economic sanctions against the brutal Taliban government. According to economist Mark Weisbrot, these sanctions, inevitably borne by the Afghan people, “are on track to kill more civilians in the coming year than have been killed by 20 years of war”.
Why is our news media silent about our government’s inhumane economic warfare there?
On February 11, 2022, President Biden signed an executive order to release $7 billion in frozen Afghan assets held in the Federal Reserve in New York—savings from ordinary citizens, not the Taliban government—and divide them between aid aid for the starving and sick Afghans and the legal costs of relatives who survived the attacks of September 11. Even US-backed former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on Biden to reverse his decision and return the full $7 billion. His words: “Withholding money or seizing money from the Afghan people…is unfair and unfair and an atrocity against the Afghan people.”
Half of the Afghan citizens were born after the war launched by the United States in Afghanistan. And yet they are being punished by our murderous economic sanctions and the subsequent theft of the savings of Afghan citizens here. Further, the Afghan people did not plan or attack the United States on 9/11. It was largely Saudi members of al-Qaeda who hatched their plot in Germany out of anger over the US setting up military bases in their country and the continued war in the Middle East. Why didn’t the United States use the CIA, known for its activities of detecting, trapping and assassinating its targets in foreign countries, to capture or, more usually, assassinate Osama bin Laden?
The logical and ethical response to compensating the families of 9/11 victims would be to withhold the millions of dollars in military aid our government gives Saudi Arabia each year to fund their purchase of military training and equipment. Americans, and to use this “blood money” for the victims of 9/11. By doing so, our government would also limit its collusion with Saudi Arabia in today’s most extreme humanitarian crisis – the military war against Yemen with its bombings of hospitals and schools and its blockades of food and medical supplies. Two-thirds of the 30 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, shelter, medicine and health care.
And why none of this in our media?
Because the greatest military empire in history failed in Afghanistan?
Because the poor, the blacks, the Muslims, the non-westerners on the other side of the world have no financial or security value?
Because Congress’s 700 Arms Industry Lobbyists have drawn Congress’ attention to their new business opportunity – the war in Ukraine?
Because the US government has now subordinated its war on terror to a testosterone-filled great power conflict with Russia and China, now inflamed by Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons.
Empires destroy themselves in the effort to prove that they are indestructible. Reinhold Niebuhr.
Pat Hynes, a retired professor of environmental health, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. His new book, “Hope But Demand Justice”, is published by Haley’s Publishing.