Friday, May 2, 2008

Why We Fight - Some Good Reasons From 2000

If anyone in Canada needs some perspective on what Afghanistan was like ten years ago (as if we cared about or understood it then), they would do well to read the book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000) by Ahmed Rashid. Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, has covered Afghanistan for 25 years and his knowledge of the region shows in his writing. He wrote this conclusion in 2000, before 9/11 put Afghanistan on our TV screens, and it’s worth reading again today.

Afghanistan has become one of “the world’s orphaned conflicts – the ones that the West, selective and promiscuous in its attention happens to ignore in favour of Yugoslavia”, said former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutrous-Ghali in 1995. The world has turned away from Afghanistan, allowing civil war, ethnic fragmentation and polarization to become state failure. The country has ceased to exist as a viable state and when a state fails civil society is destroyed. Generations of children grow up rootless, without identity or reason to live except to fight. Adults are traumatized and brutalized, knowing only war and the power of the warlords. “We are dealing here with a failed state which looks like an infected wound. You don’t even know where to start cleaning it” said UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

The entire Afghan population has been displaced, not once but many times over. The physical destruction of Kabu has turned it into the Dresden of the late twentieth century. The crossroads of Asia on the ancient Silk Route is now nothing but miles of rubble. There is no semblance of an infrastructure that can sustain society – even at the lowest common denominator of poverty. In 1998 the ICRC reported that the number of Afghan families headed by a widow had reached 98,000, the number of families headed by a disabled person was 63,000 and 45,000 people were treated for war wounds that year alone. The only productive factories in the country are those where artificial limbs, crutches and wheelchairs are produced by the aid agencies.
Afghanistan’s divisions are multiple – ethnic, sectarian, rural and urban, educated and uneducated, those with guns and those who have been disarmed. The economy is a black hole that is sucking in its neighbours with illicit trade and the smuggling of drugs and weapons, undermining them in the process. “It will take at least ten to 15 years before there will be a functioning central authority capable of doing the minimum of the administration needed for the development of the country. And that is, in my view, a rather optimistic statement” said Swedish aid-worked Anders Fange. (pp. 207-208)

...if the [civil] war in Afghanistan continues to be ignored we can only expect the worse. Pakistan will face a Taliban-style Islamic revolution which will further destabilize it and the entire region. Iran will remain on the periphery of the world community and its eastern borders will continue to be wracked by instability. The Central Asian states will not be able to deliver their energy and mineral expots by the shortest routes and as their economies crash, they will face an Islamic upsurge and instability. Russia will continue to bristle with hegemonic aims in Central Asia even as its own society and economy crumbles. The stakes are extremely high. (pp. 215-216)

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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