Wednesday, July 12, 2006
There is a political phenomenon known as “blowback”. It represents the unintended consequences of foreign policy actions. For example, the United States and Great Britain overthrew a functioning democracy in Iran in 1953. Then, after years of extreme repression under the Western-backed Shah, the Iranian people finally rose up and installed an Islamic regime fundamentally hostile to the West.
We are living with the consequences to this day.
A similar process is going on in Afghanistan right now.
Afghanistan was always a wild and a lawless country, and there have been numerous attempts over the centuries to tame it. The British had a go in the 19th century. So did the Russians more recently.
In the years of the Russian occupation the West supported al-Qaeda and the narco-trafficking Afghan warlords. After the Soviet withdrawal we allowed that poor, dry, opium-ridden country to go back to its lawless ways.
The Afghans have been fighting each other for over thirty years. The irony here is that it was the Taliban who finally brought order and peace to the land in the mid nineties. It was the Taliban who stopped the heroin trade.
Now we are fighting the Taliban again, heroin is on the rise, and British troops are being killed in some obscure corner of the world that most of us never even knew existed. How many of you had heard of Helmand Province before the latest troop deployments?
It is worth asking who the Taliban are. On film they look like some ragged ghostly army haunting the dusty mountain wildernesses between Afghanistan and Pakistan, like vengeful warriors from a medieval past.
Well I can tell you EXACTLY who the they are. They are not ghosts. They have a history. They are the orphaned sons of thirty years of the Afghan wars, brought up in the madrassa schools of Pakistan, funded by our great “ally” Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban are oppressive to women because they have never known women. They have never known mothers or aunts or sisters. They have had a peculiar, violent, repressive form of Islam whipped into them for endless years. That’s how they grew up. In other words, this is an army made up almost entirely of abused children.
This is what I mean by “blowback”. The Taliban are the unintended result of Western foreign policy, the creation of those two Islamic allies in the war on terror, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and of years of shameful neglect. We allowed them to fight our wars for us during the Cold War era, taking on the might of the Soviet Empire, and then left them to rot.
Tell me: why should we expect them to be grateful now?