Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hello! Is anybody awake in there?

I mentioned this yesterday but at the time I assumed that it would get some attention. Now it appears to have gone down the memory hole. The government of Afghanistan, through an official spokesman, says it has incontrovertible proof that Pakistani intelligence tried to murder Afghan President Hamid Kharzai.

Now listen up folks. This refers to an actual, real attempt on Kharzai's life, in which a member of Parliament, a tribal leader, and a ten year old boy were killed, although Kharzai escaped unscathed. The United States, as you know, has invested very heavily in Pakistan as an ostensible ally in the War on Terror™, including handing them $6 billion on a handshake. How they actually used the $6 billion, we have no idea. It was supposed to be for hunting down all those bad guys along the Afghan border, but whatever they may have done with it, it wasn't that.

You might think that American journalists and politicians would have some slight interest in the suggestion that the intelligence service the U.S. is financing is actually on the side of the enemy. But no, nothing to see here, move along. I have seen not one single word about this published anywhere today, or uttered by anyone in the administration or the Congress. It was one of those international news briefs in yesterday's paper, and that's it. I googled it and that's what I found: reported on June 26, not a peep about it from anyone.

Now, I don't expect war between Afghanistan and Pakistan, if only because Pakistan's overwhelming military superiority rules out Kharzai actually doing anything about the situation. He's a U.S. puppet anyway and the U.S. is not going to let him throw too much shit at the fan, not with all our other troubles in that area. But this is one more indication that the quagmire for the United States in that area is just getting deeper. So far 40 U.S. and other NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan in June, the highest monthly total since the U.S. invaded almost seven years ago. Afghanistan had a record opium harvest last year and is on track for a bigger one this year. Afghanistan supplies 90% of the world's illicit opioids, and 80% of Afghan opium is grown under Taliban protection and finances the Taliban movement.

Now, I'm not entirely sure what we ought to do about this. In fact I do not support Barack Obama's call to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. I don't think that deepening our military involvement is going to produce any sort of a solution. The Taliban are not my kind of folks, but they do not now nor did they ever constitute any sort of a direct threat to the United States. In fact, when they were in power, they suppressed the opium trade; their current relationship with opium is a matter of opportunism, is contrary to their moral code, and would probably end if they could securely seize power and didn't have to depend on it.

The reason the U.S. got involved in Afghanistan is because the Taliban were harboring a small, violent cult that had indeed organized an attack on the United States, precisely because the United States had military forces based in the Arab/Islamic heartland. Contrary to John McCain's nonsensical proclamations, these people are not a "transcendental"* or "existential" threat to the U.S. or the West -- they're just a gang of stateless fanatics whose greatest power derives from our habit of overreacting to them. And we could make them disappear entirely by removing those troops from Iraq, as they would no longer have a causus belli. (No, they don't hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our imperialism.)

However, we all know what's going to happen. The U.S. is going to be drawn deeper and deeper into Afghanistan, it's going to cost more and more lives and treasure, tensions with Pakistan will deepen and no doubt people will start blaming Iran as well. The course of events threatens to become less predictable and more dangerous, particularly in the context of the lame duck administration and a Republican presidential candidate who is premising his entire candidacy on bellicosity. Attention must be paid.

*Whatever the heck that's supposed to mean. I thought transcendentalism was a vaguely defined 19th Century New England literary movement.

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