Today less than one hundred al-Queda members are left in Afghanistan. On the other site 250.000 troops and mercenaries are stationed there in toto by the U.S. and Nato. The war has never been a war on terror but waged out of strategic interests, says Phyllis Bennis. The actual targed of the U.S. is Pakistan. In face of the sovereign debt crisis in the States the demand must be to bring the war dollars home. The troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible, reparations must be paid and a regional diplomacy initiated.
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington D.C.
Fabian Scheidler: While the situation for the Afghanis in their country increasingly worsens, protest actions against the occupation continually take place in Afghanistan. On the 8th of July hundreds of people from the province of Khost went to the streets to protest against a NATO air-raids that killed 11 civilians. On Democracy Now! a protester said:
Fabian Scheidler:Opinion polls in the USA show that for years now a majority of Americans are against the war in Afghanistan. According to a new survey done by the Washington Post and ABC two thirds of all Americans feel the war is not worth fighting. They’re asking president Obama to pull a large portion of the troops out of Afghanistan after the end of this summer. In June Obama had announced this year to pull out 10 000 troops. And next year 23 000 troops are to follow. That would leave 70 000 US troops in Afghanistan. In addition, there remains tens of thousands of US paid mercenaries. After this reduction American troop levels would still be larger than before Obama came to power.
David Goessmann: Our next guest is Phyllis Bennis. She is with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and author of the book “Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer”. Phyllis Bennis, the official justification for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was and still is to fight terrorism. How plausible is this justification given for example the fact that none of the 9/11 highjackers were from Afghanistan but most of them from Saudi Arabia. No Afghan has been sued before court due to 9/11 up to now. Why was Afghanistan chosen to be invaded? Why not Saudi Arabia?
Phyllis Bennis: Well, I think that the decision to attack Afghanistan was a political attack, it wasn’t a strategic attack. It was preparatory to the real goal which was the war again the Iraq. But Afghanistan was the easy target if you will. There was the claim because the highjackers had been inspired from somebody at that time in Afghanistan that it was legitimate somehow for the entire population of Afghanistan to be the target of this massive war. As you say the highjackers were not born in Afghanistan. They were born in Egypt an Saudi Arabia. They didn’t live in Afghanistan, they lived in Hamburg. They didn’t train in Afghanistan, they trained in Florida. They didn’t even go to flight school in Afghanistan, they went to flight school in Minnesota. So there was no legitimate claim and nor was this in incident of self defence. The highjackers had been killed. There were no indications that there were more highjackers coming. The idea of the justification was that they, THEY attacked us and therefore WE, however we want to define “we” – have the right to kill all of them. And this notion of “us” and “them” was very central to the ideological basis of that. The justification now is quite specific. It’s to go after al-quaeda. Now the problem for the U.S. administration is that they have admitted that there are only somehow between 50 and 75 members of al-quaeda left in Afghanistan. So what you have is almost a hundred thousand US troops and between 40 and 50 thousand other Nato troops, always a hundred thousand US paid mercenaries in Afghanistan to go after 75 guys? I don’t think so. So this has far more to do now with continuing the political war making sure the US is able to claim a victory at some point. But that’s clearly not going to happen in any real sense. And at the strategic level it has everything to do with the strategic location of Afghanistan, the inability of the U.S. to occupy Pakistan which remains a major concern. The US would actually love to declare its ongoing war against Pakistan but it can’t do that. So instead it says it’s at war in Afghanistan and uses that as the basis to go to war using drones against Pakistan. There is also the question of natural gas and oil pipelines going through Afghanistan. But basically the war in Afghanistan is not a war for oil. It’s a war for strategic positioning which is a slightly different role than the war in Iraq.
David Goessmann: Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on the war in Afghanistan. At the same time the U.S. is facing a severe dept crisis. Talk about the cost of the war and the US military budget in general.
Phyllis Bennis: The American people right now are paying an enormous price. Very directly, very much at the financial level for the war against Afghanistan. At the moment that we are being told that there is no money for jobs, that there is no money for health care, there is no money for schools we are somehow able to find not only a 122 billion dollars this year for the war in Afghanistan alone. 47 billion dollars more for the war in Iraq and a total of 553 billion dollars – half a trillion dollars – just this year, just for the overall Pentagon budget. That doesn’t even include those costs of the actual war. When you are adding all the other military expenses you are talking about over a trillion dollars of U.S. tax money that is going to this war at a moment that we are being told that we need to have everybody sacrifice, everybody needs to be prepared give up something. The poorest people in this country need to be able to give up part of their social security safety net. Working people have to give up part of there pensions. Old people have to give up part of their medicare, medical health care they have available. So it’s a horrific reality in this country. Where the Afghans are paying a dramatic price in blood people in this country are paying an enormous price in the economic crisis that is affecting our country. And until very recently the question of the costs of war has simply not been on the official agenda here in Washington and has been front and center in the agenda of people and popular movements. If we look for example at the state of Wisconsin which saw the first real uprising against these massive cuts earlier this year the state budget deficit that lead to a huge cutback in public employees in Wisconsin and the thread of the unions of Wisconsin loosing all right in that state, that state budget deficit was 1.8 billion dollars – a huge amount of money. The amount of money that the tax payers of the state of Wisconsin, the same state, that were loosing 1.8 billion dollars in a state budget deficite they were paying in taxes 1.7 billion dollars almost the exact same amount as their share of the war in Afghanistan. So the link is very, very immediate and very, very direct. The goal now is to make that the demand of people across this country to bring the war dollars home.
David Goessmann: Your latest book, Phyllis, is called “Ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan. A Primer”. You are saying that pulling out the troupes out of Afghanistan is not sufficient how should the true exit strategy in your view look like?
Phyllis Bennis: A true exit strategy can only start with withdrawing the troupes. That’s step one. That’s not step all. We have an enormous debt to the people in Afghanistan. The U.S. government for 30 years has been responsible for devastation in that country. We are not the only actor, but we are far the biggest actor who has caused and supported and funded and armed wars in these countries. And if we look at what we are leaving in Afghanistan now while we are there, you know we hear in this country for instance “We have to keep troops in Afghanistan because we have to protect the women”. Well, let’s look at what it really means for women living in Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan die too young, too often. But they don’t die because they were killed by the Taliban, that’s a really rare occurance. They die frequently in huge numbers because they die in childbirth from lack of decent medical care. At the time that the Taliban ran Afghanistan in say the year 2000 the women of Afghanistan faced the worst place in the world to give birth. Afghanistan had the lowest ranking in the UN’s rankings for maternal mortality, for women dying in child birth. Where is Afghanistan today? It’s still the worst place for a woman to give birth. This is not something that my country can be proud of. So we owe an enormous debt, we owe a debt that needs to be paid with money, with access to training, but not with U.S. control. U.S. aid money now overwhelmingly does not leave the United States. It goes to U.S. based contractors, U.S. based agencies, U.S. based manufacturers, U.S. based arms dealers. We need to transform that. So that money goes directly to Afghans. Will the current government in Afghanistan survive when the U.S. goes out? I’m not sure, I think probably not because I don’t think it has the independent indigenous legitimacy to survive without U.S. support. But what does it mean? Will there be chaos in Afghanistan? I’m afraid they probably will for a while. It’s not going to be a pretty sight when the U.S. pulls out. But that’s going to be true whether it’s today that the U.S. pulls out as I advocate or whether it’s in five years or ten years as I think some in Washington would like to imagine. We need to be very clear about the role of the region, we need to support regional diplomacy. That means the entire region, not only the countries that the U.S. likes. Everybody in the region has a role to play in this kind of diplomacy. And there needs to be a regionally and globally supported diplomatic process inside the country. Well, and I wish the U.S. who’s military functions essentially as the largest militia in Afghanistan today and by far the most popular we need to end the role of all the militias including the US army. So once that happens I think the possibility of a negotiated diplomatic process internally to Afghanistan will be far more viable.
David Goessmann: That was Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.
Fabian Scheidler: This was Kontext TV. To safeguard our independence Kontext TV does not accept advertising or sponsoring. However, through a sustaining membership or a donation you can help support us.
David Goessmann: More information at our Website at www.kontext-tv.de. Thank you for viewing and listening. David Goeßmann and Fabian Scheidler say goodbye.