Ten Years in Afghanistan
October 7, 2011 · By Phyllis Bennis
Ten years of war, 1802 U.S. military casualties, half a trillion dollars, and what do we have to show for it?
In Afghanistan, with 98,000 U.S. troops, almost 50,000 more NATO troops, and 100,000 U.S.-paid contractors still occupying the country, UN figures show unequivocally that violence is up – way up. But the U.S.-led NATO coalition still insists that its claims of reduced violence are absolutely accurate. Despite the economic crisis the U.S. has found the money to train several hundred thousand Afghan men as soldiers and police – but has only funded training for 2000 women as midwives. Just as it was when the Taliban was in control, UNICEF figures show Afghanistan remains the worst place in the world for a child to be born and hope to survive to her or his fifth birthday – one of every four Afghan babies will die before that time.
So it’s no surprise to hear reports of a protest march in Kabul yesterday, chanting “No to Occupation” and “Americans Out” to commemorate ten years of war, while the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the U.S. forces themselves said nothing to acknowledge the bitter anniversary.
Here in the U.S., with an economic crisis so dire that real unemployment is close to 15%, and double that in the African-American community, the war in Afghanistan cost more than $122 billion last year. That could have paid for 2.4 million good green middle-class jobs back home. Besides those killed, concern about the thousands of injured soldiers, disgust with the vast corruption of the Kabul government, outrage at the expansion of the war to a massive drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and beyond, has led to growing opposition to what was once deemed the “good war.” In fact public opposition has spiked to more than 64%, who believe the Afghanistan war is not worth fighting. What a transformation from the first days of the war, when a whopping 88% of people in the U.S. were enthusiastic supporters!
So it’s no surprise that the “Occupy Wall Street” and the vast array of similar Occupy US protests are erupting across the country, just at the moment of the ten years of war in Afghanistan, fighting back against the lack of jobs, the unfair taxes, the bailouts of the banks but not of the people, foreclosures on houses but not on tax-cheat corporations, and so much more. And while the billions wasted on the war in Afghanistan isn’t always on top of the protest signs, ask any Occupy protester whether they think the war is a good use of their tax money – and see how powerful the opposition. For the same reason that the New Priorities Network, linking trade unions, community-based economic justice organizations and peace activists, has come together to call for moving the money – out of the wars and Pentagon budgets, and into jobs and our communities and reparations for the damage we’ve done in Afghanistan and beyond.
The legacy of the U.S. government and the Wall Street corporations that back it is the ten years of violence, death and destruction in Afghanistan and ten years of economic crisis at home in a war that has killed too many Afghans and not made us one whit safer.
But OUR legacy is in the ten years of anti-war organizing that helped transform public opinion from fear-based massive embrace of the war to an outraged majority opposition. OUR legacy is in the growing links between our movement and the peace campaigners in Afghanistan and around the world demanding an end to occupation and new approaches to protect people’s lives, human rights, women, children and the land of Afghanistan. OUR legacy is in the rising protest movements challenging not only the system of wars and warmongers and war profiteers, but the banks and corporations and billionaires that feed them. Ten years on, OUR legacy is more powerful than ever.
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