A lot has been said about this mess and a lot more will be. I cannot do better than to suggest you watch the 2 documentaries Rory Stewart MP made in 2011. Here is an introduction to these from his website (edited):-
Afghanistan - one of the most barren and inhospitable countries on earth. It is hard to imagine why any great power would want to target and invade it. Yet it has become an obsession of major powers.
In 1839 red-coated British veterans of Waterloo marched into Kabul.
In 1879 Scots Highlanders charged in to the sound of bagpipes. In 1979 Russian Special Forces came in over the hills with helicopters, and in 2001 the US-led Coalition invaded, remaining until today.
Each of these has ended in tragedy and humiliation, each has sparked a fierce Afghan resistance. They have all been told "It is easy to get into a war, it is much harder to get out of one". And yet it goes on, a brutal history repeating itself with complete disaster for the Afghan population. They were all warned "Don't get involved in a tribal war".
You can access these 2 films on BBC iPlayer: BBC2, Monday August 23rd at 11.15pm.
Another good analysis of this ongoing tragedy can be found on the Stop the War Coalition website, www.stopwar.org.uk , where there are excellent articles. Lindsey German's article of August 16th particularly caught my eye. Here are some extracts:-
The shock with which many are now registering the return of the Taliban is understandable, but is largely a result of the lack of truthfulness and understanding by British and US governments and media of the real balance of forces in the country. The existing Afghan government and its troops have been almost totally dependent on US and other imperialist powers for its existence and this fact has become abundantly clear. The prospects for ordinary Afghans are grim. They have faced over 40 years of war, invasion and civil war. The country remains one of the poorest in the world and desperately needs infrastructure and development. Levels of corruption are very high including at government and official levels. Many Afghans depend on the opium trade for their livelihoods. Afghanistan has been badly served by its governments, not least those imposed by the western powers. One danger now is that the civil war, which in reality never went away, will continue.
I find the response to this by the western governments and their supporters absolutely appalling. The cynicism with which they absolve themselves of all responsibility and continue to justify their original actions is quite shocking and they refuse to entertain other opinions – such as those put by anti war campaigners 20 years ago – which have been proved correct.
They also now cry crocodile tears about the fate of Afghan women in particular when this has never been a major priority.
There will now be a debate among US and British politicians about whether they should have left, whether they should send troops back in, who is to blame. The answer is the whole war on terror, the whole strategy, has proved a terrible failure and this should be admitted. Instead, we should consider how the lives of Afghanis would have been improved if only a fraction of the money committed to this war – an astonishing $1 trillion from the US alone – had gone into improving their lives through investment in infrastructure, housing, education, agriculture. That was an opportunity that could have been taken but was ignored in favour of military solutions. And those have brought us to where we are today.
Very few MPs voted against this war 20 years ago, among them the late Tam Dalyell and Tony Benn, as well as Alice Mahon and of course Jeremy Corbyn. Tony Blair was a key advocate of the war. In reality it was built on a lie, not as blatant as that in Iraq, but a lie which averred that war could bring democracy and peace. Keir Starmer is following in this tradition with his demands for NATO and UN summits as though he hasn’t noticed the past 20 years.
Our Member Noel Hamel has succeeded in having a letter printed in The New Statesman.
Here it is (edited)
Twenty years is a long time, and memories are clearly fading. "Biden's great betrayal" (Leader August 20) - really? Betrayal of what?
The mission in Afghanistan was about retribution for 9/11. Ironically, people in Afghanistan were among the last to know about the attacks as radio and television were banned under the Taliban. Osama Bin Laden befriended the group by giving it badly needed money, but did his own thing. The Taliban was surprised to hear about the collapse of New York skyscrapers. It offered to hand over Bin
Laden as long as the US provided evidence of his involvement.
George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan instead, even though Donald Rumsfeld warned there were no good targets there. It was no humanitarian mercy mission, just good old-fashioned Blitzkrieg. The US opened Guantanamo Bay and numerous "black sites" where victims were brutally beaten. Most were let go for lack of evidence. I continue to demonstrate at the American embassy for the remaining prisoners, 39 of them, to either be released or charged.
In the 20 years since the US attacked Afghanistan there have been some well-meaning people who tried to help create a Western democracy in a country long riven with conflict. There were undoubted improvements for some, but there wasn't a stable situation and Afghans didn't own the changes. Western governments had no cohesive strategy but limped along from one episode to another until Donald Trump struck an exit deal for his own electoral advantage. Joe Biden inherited the agreement and there was no good case for reneging on it. The Taliban quickly defeated the unstable Afghan government and its forces - the best that 20 years of Western involvement could achieve....
And I will give the last word to Lindsey German, from her email today 1st September 2021:-
The whole idea that the world's largest imperial nation could 'remake' a country was itself a conceit born of overweening power and military might. The war and its successors were about regime change and asserting Western imperialism's role - not championing human rights.
Despite the bluster of the British government, the withdrawal has shown its weakness. There is no independent military operation (or even evacuation) without the United States.
The impact of anti-war movements on public opinion and on shifting perceptions of war has been profound and it continues. It's why Biden still talks about ending the 'forever wars'. And it's why, as tensions grow with Iran, Russia, China, all of whom will be playing a role in Afghanistan, we need to keep campaigning....
This year we decided to repeat the lunchtime vigil in the town, as this had proved successful last year in spite of our being in a strict Covid lockdown. We stood in a line near the Bentall Centre entrance, each person holding a placard explaining what we were doing. This was again well-received by many of the passers by, who took leaflets and newsletters. So we intend to make this a regular event on Hiroshima Day, August 6th.
Thanks to everyone who attended: Julian, Hilary, Sarah, Tony, Martin, Mary, Carol, Ed, Maggie and Roshan (who took the picture).
In the evening we gathered as usual by the river in Canbury Gardens. It was great to see many friends we have been out of touch with recently due to Covid. We were also delighted to welcome the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston on Thames, Sushila Abraham and the Mayor's consort, her husband Mr Abraham. Maggie Rees then read the speech prepared by Phil Cooper, who was unfortunately unable to be present. The speech ended with a description of the 'Church that rose from the Ashes', see Phil's description of this in his July 2021 newsletter.
The Mayor then spoke of the absolute necessity to ensure these weapons are never used again, and how important it is to hold these memorial events to make sure we never forget. She introduced her talk, and concluded it, in Japanese, which was so appropriate and much appreciated especially by our many Japanese friends who were present. This was followed by a minute's silence and the strewing of white flowers onto the river in memory of the dead.
At KPC we feel encouraging children to think about peace and appreciate how we can all work for peace is pretty important. Since 2008 we have written to all primary and secondary schools in Kingston and Richmond to offer to take school assemblies and suggest links to peace education resources. We know teachers already do a lot on this but sometimes an outside speaker provides a new dimension. These visits have been focused around the UN Peace Day on 21 September.
The programme has grown over the years so that in 2019 we visited 11 primary schools and 3 secondary schools with two visits to some schools so we could reach more children.
In 2020 we felt teachers and schools already had enough to deal with so we didn’t send our normal mailout. Now in 2021 the situation with Covid still seems slightly uncertain so we will not be visiting schools in the weeks around 21 September. However if the virus seems under control we hope to write to schools in the new year and suggest school assemblies in the Spring term.
On Greenham Peace Camp’s 40th anniversary AWPC’s September camp took place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th, coinciding with the memorial March arriving from Cardiff. Many events took place, including bus tours of Aldermaston & Burghfield (Greenham Common has been returned to nature and the military base is no more but few of us know that just down the road are the sites where nuclear weapons are made today in the UK). See www.greenhamwomeneverywhere.co.uk and www.facebook.com/ScaryLittleGirls/
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has told the organisers of an arms fair due to take place in London next month to “reconsider” their event and not come back to the city.
In letters seen by The Independent, the mayor said the fair’s presence in London was insulting to people who had escaped violence and made London their home, and that it threatened investment in the city’s Docklands, as well as costing too much to police.
He argued that the capital was “home to many people who have fled conflict and suffered as a consequence of weapons like those exhibited at DSEI.
For it to be used as a marketplace for those who wish to trade in weapons to some countries that contribute to human rights abuses goes completely against our values.”
DSEI, which stands for Defence and Security Equipment International, sees 1,600 exhibitors, selling weapons from sniper rifles and tanks to combat aircraft and warships, presenting to more than 30,000 attendees.
There are actions planned against the Arms Fair assuming it does go ahead (The Council of the London Borough of Newham in which the Fair takes place have also unanimously voted against it apparently to no avail.) Ed
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND